The Penelopeia, by Jane Rawlings

When Odyseus returns home from his long journeys, he finds that his wife Penelope has not only been steadfast in her defense of her home, but that she has managed to keep secret the birth of Odyseus’ twin daughters — a secret kept to spare them from the suitors ravaging their home.

But the gods are not done with this noble family yet, as it has been decried that Penelope and her two lovely daughters must travel to Pythia to visit the oracle and on from there to visit Helen so that her daughters may learn her secrets of healing.

Rawlings writes this continuation of The Odessy in the epic poetic style of Homer, mimicking the tone and voice of her favorite translation of the work. She accomplishes this quite well, for except for the fact that her poem is in first person, it sounds almost exactly like the Odessy as I remember reading it years ago.

I was slightly bored by it at time, though, because much of the epic poem is spent in convincing Odyseus to allow them to leave and in the sharing of only mildly interesting tales. It takes quite a while for Penelope to even get on the ship, let alone begin her adventures. Further, her adventures, being those of a woman are much tamer than her husbands. There is very little reason for her to use her cunning, which she clearly has as seen in the Odessy. The most exciting moments are those that came more than half way through the book, when she is taken up by the great Amazon warrior women who wish her to join their ranks. My interest was only roused then, and was diminished when she left their ranks.

In some ways Rawlings had to cheat to make this story happen, had to invent and secret in aspects of the story that were not in the Odessy in order to make it work. And even, the restrictions of women according to the time and culture in her characters lived meant that she could have gone further with this story, to delve deeply into strength and potential of women as I had hoped. Any attempt to have women go off on adventures on their own in ancient Greece, unless their were Amazons or in some other way free from men and the burdens of reputation, ultimately results in a story that sounds forced. Or perhaps it can be done, but it came out sounding forced here, despite Rawlings best efforts. In the end I was a bit disappointed with this tale.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]