How familiar are you with Penelope’s story from The Odyssey? Claire North has a re-telling for you. Ithaca is a re-telling of Penelope’s story while Odysseus is away. The calculations, manipulations, and schemes for safety and security as a queen. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
‘The greatest power we woman can own, is that we take in secret . . . ‘
Seventeen years ago, king Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them have returned, and the women have been left behind to run the kingdom.
Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. Whilst he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that husband is dead, and suitors are starting to knock at her door . . .
But no one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne – not yet. Between Penelope’s many suitors, a cold war of dubious alliances and hidden knives reigns, as everyone waits for the balance of power to tip one way or another. If Penelope chooses one from amongst them, it will plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning and her spy network of maids can she maintain the delicate balance of power needed for the kingdom to survive.
On Ithaca, everyone watches everyone else, and there is no corner of the palace where intrigue does not reign . . .
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I’m definitely on the Greek Mythology re-telling train. I’ve read so many this year already and have a few ready for the rest of the month. Talk about a hot topic at the moment. So I was fascinated by Ithaca and a re-telling of Penelope’s story. To start this review, let me tell you some things that would have helped me while reading. For one, Ithaca is going to have a sequel. I didn’t realize that when I began reading so when the ending came I was taken aback.
Additionally, because I feel like in literature class we don’t talk too much about Penelope’s time while Odysseus is gone, more things happen than you might remember. Because of that it can feel a little bit slow at times as your expectations war with your experience. Furthermore, parts of Ithaca are actually told from the gods perspective, specifically Hera. I actually enjoyed these sections as it made me not only feel ‘above’ of the action, but gave me insight into the workings and favors of the gods above.
Yet at the same time, it meant that what I was looking for – a deeper compelling look at Penelope – was sort of lacking because we weren’t deep in her POV. Like we didn’t get as much of her internal introspection into the dilemmas of her situation. One could argue she didn’t have much time to expose her weaknesses and vulnerabilities considering her situation, but I guess that’s just what I was expecting. So if you’re looking for what – seems at least to me – like a relatively straight forward examination of Ithaca while Odysseus is away and Penelope’s situation, Ithaca is 100% your bet.
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Most of my suspense about what was going to happen has to occur in the sequel. The abrupt ending gave me pause, but ultimately I would read the sequel just to see what will play out. Ithaca gives more context for a story, a moment, in The Odyssey that deserves more space as Penelope is embroiled in these quests for power amidst a chess board of moving pieces and gods. It begins to ask what choices do we have, especially as women, not only in society, but also these larger narratives. Find Ithaca on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.