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Ithaca (2022)

por Claire North

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4121560,251 (3.72)20
"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 has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom. Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door. No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus' empty throne--not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war"--Dust jacket flap.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 15 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Damn. This was bad. Not like, horrifically bad, but just like... generally bad. And I already rate pretty harshly, so poor Ithaca just didn't have a chance.

Ithaca tells the story of Penelope (of The Odyssey fame), dealing with the rash-like abundance of suitors as she waits for her husband Odysseus to return to their beloved island of Ithaca. Trouble begins when raiders begin to encroach the island, pushing Penelope to marry, and the secret arrival of her cousin Clytemnestra, who just murdered her husband Agamemnon of the The Oresteia fame and is on the lam. Machinations, goddess-drama, and annoying whelps ensue, until fate has its way on the poor island.

Ithaca isn't a poorly constructed novel so much as it is boring, overwritten, and mindless. It didn't present the reader with anything new, and instead took a potentially fruitful scenario and pondered on and on until it withered up and died. I have no doubt that the only reason this was published (and sold as a TRILOGY!?) is that the author is established in the industry and that there is a large publishing push right now with Greek and other mythology retelling to secure enough sold copies. I mean hell, it got me: trendy and beautiful cover, women’s fiction, Ancient Greek story. Triple whammy book request if there’s ever been one. Unfortunately, this is the kind of book they warn you about in elementary school: it’s truly the worst book with the best cover that I’ve read in a long time.

The story has a fascination with the trappings of Ancient Greek storytelling that I fear the author believed would carry more weight than it did. It has that oh-so-memorable turns of phrase for anyone who studied the language: we get a good “rosy-fingered dawn” and an interesting inverted patronymic of “father-of” with many male characters—the most annoying unfortunately is the constant “what will the poets think?” anytime a woman does anything a bit off the book, shall we say. It seems that a woman cannot so much as breathe in an unladylike way and it’s noted for the reader like a giant red arrow for all to see. There's very little subtlety in this book. This is the sort of stuff that "feminist retelling" criticism was made for.

While these turns of phrase show that the author has, at least, put some thought into the accoutrements of her writing, so many things were just—well—straight up wrong historically speaking. And without any explanation as to why. I think the standout was the relationship and actions of Penelope’s (enslaved!) maids, who all acted like this massive line of power just… didn’t exist? Yes, they bowed and simpered a bit, but the odd veiling etiquette, the way they all spoke to the queen, and the level of agency they had were all just massively ignored. It told me right away that the people who would enjoy this are not the ones who know very much about this world...

Perhaps the most egregious is the overall tone of the novel: the author employs the goddess Hera as the narrator, which speaking on a narrative level sucks all the life out of the God damn thing. Naturally, then, it’s written in a very grand voice that the author is simply not good enough to pull off authentically. And there were so many damn adjectives! Double triple adjectives! Purple prose my god!

Basically, and I said this earlier, this book is boring, without any reason for being so. I always feel like I have to reiterate, I read boring books: look at my classics tag. Like, if your plot is thin, the characterization or the theme or the beauty of your writing has got to be superb. Unfortunately, this novel does not supply any of those. The characters are flat and there is somehow no character development in the 400+ pages. There are no themes other than "Wow, did you know women did stuff and had feelings two thousand years ago?", and the small bits of beauty in the text are buried beneath eye-rolling metaphors without a hint of something gruff and good.

Anyway. Eh. ( )
  Eavans | Nov 29, 2023 |
I was interested in a novel focused on Penelope and how she could have managed to fend off a pack of unruly suitors for years in the absence of Odysseus, her husband. This was an interesting take on that, with Penelope forced to use subterfuge because of the male dominated culture. Only an old counsellor, Medon, was secretly sympathetic to her.

Pirates beset the island, appearing to come from a far off country, but they don't ask to be paid off as usual, and Penelope, Medon and Penelope's female allies all suspect one of the men squatting in her house to be responsible, trying to force her into accepting him. Meanwhile, to favour one suitor is to trigger civil war with the rest, and her teenage son, Telemachus, has bought into the culture of male superiority and is being difficult.

To cap it all, the children of Clytemnestra arrive demanding Penelope's assistance in finding their mother so that her son, Orestes, can kill her, something demanded by the culture before he can become king of Mycenae. Penelope has already worked out that Clytemnestra is on Ithaca, and wants to smuggle her off the island, but she also desperately needs the political support of Mycenae, and if Orestes doesn't become its king, his rapacious uncle, Menelaus, will take over and swallow up Ithaca.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the goddess, Hera, having her own problems due to the bullying dominance of Zeus. Although this has the benefit of showing various characters in different places, it does introduce a distance between the reader and Penelope. There were some interesting characters, including the eastern female warrior, whose people gave rise to the legend of the Amazons, and who trains the women to defend the island - which must be done in secret. The underground women's network is also interesting. On balance, I would rate the book as a 3 star read. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
It's 8 years after the Trojan war ended and Penelope has been using every strategy to keep herself Ithaca out of the hands of the ruthless and useless men who would kill her son and inevitably destroy it in a way with the other entitled suitors. It is a nearly relentless exposure to toxic masculinity as narrated by the goddess Hera who certainly knows her toxic males. Only Penelope's stratagems and the bitter humor of goddess and women forced to employ indirection make it palatable, but never becomes a comfortable narrator. ( )
  quondame | Sep 16, 2023 |
“Once upon a time, there were three queens in Greece. One was chaste and pure, one a temptress whore, one a murderous hag.”

It has been seventeen years since Odysseus left Ithaca to fight in the Trojan War, leaving his young bride Penelope and infant son Telemachus behind. The war lasted ten years but Odysseus has not returned. Penelope is left to fend for herself and her son and run the kingdom of Ithaca with help of her household of maids and advisors. Odysseus’s prolonged absence has fueled rumors of his death encouraging hordes of suitors to flock to Penelope’s door and unashamedly becoming a fixture in her home. She has to make up excuses to hold them at bay. In addition to tactfully handling the volatile situation with her suitors, she is also troubled by the presence of a queen being hunted by her vengeful children for murdering their father. Penelope's son Telemachus, intent on proving he is a worthy successor to his father, joins the militia movement that is training for fighting the raiders who target their island at regular intervals. In other words, a lot is going on in Ithaca and Penelope has her hands full.

The presence of the Greek goddesses, each wielding their power over their devotees and their subtle manipulations, not to mention their limited interactions with one another makes for an interesting read. The exchanges between Hera and Athena, in particular, are quite amusing. Hera, as a narrator, does not mince her words –be it on her opinions about her husband’s amorous exploits or her true feeling about her stepchildren, her observations on Penelope’s suitors or her biased opinions of the Grecian queens among whom Clytemnestra is her favorite. She also holds nothing back while voicing her own brutally honest opinions about some of the "heroes" and how poets and bards wax eloquent while singing praises of their exploits, often neglecting to mention the contributions of their female counterparts or the lesser known mortals who have played an important role in their success.

“I am the goddess of queens, wives and women; my tasks may be thankless, but I perform them nonetheless.”

While I did enjoy Hera’s narration, I felt that her views and perceptions dominated the story and somehow relegated Penelope’s perspective to the sidelines. Penelope is portrayed as quiet but observant and capable of ruling in her husband’s absence. Having read Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad recently and loving it, I had hoped to hear more about Penelope and her maids and the events in Ithaca during Odysseus’s absence from Penelope’s perspective. I did enjoy the detailed description of the lives of the women on the island. The women in Claire North’s Ithaca - Penelope, her loyal maids and advisors, and the warriors who take it upon themselves to defend their island from threats are brave and intelligent and empower one another when faced with adversity.

With its well-written, fluid and elegant prose, even pacing throughout the novel, and themes of feminism, survival and loyalty Claire North’s Ithaca is an engaging read that I would recommend to fans of Greek Mythology and those fond of feminist retellings. I eagerly look forward to reading the next two books in this trilogy.

Many thanks to Redhook Books and NetGalley for granting access to a digital review copy of this novel. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. ( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
Penelope, Queen of Ithaca is a young woman when her husband, Odysseus, leaves home to fight in the Trojan War. Now, nearly twenty years later, she is a woman of mature years who waits patiently for her husband to return. It has been years since the fall of Troy and, alas, she has heard nothing about what has become of her husband. On the island of Ithaca, Penelope is forced by the sacred laws of hospitality to tend to the needs of her guests who never seem to leave. These men are suitors who are vying for her hand in marriage. Thus goes their reasoning: ‘It has been many years since Odysseus left home, so it is unlikely that he is still alive. It is time to choose a husband to be King of Ithaca.’

She refuses to make such a choice that could result in her son, Telemachus’s death or exile. Moreover, what if Odysseus truly is alive somewhere? She resolves that she will remain true to the man that she loves. When Illyrian pirates attack the small smuggler town of Phenera, it’s a veritable massacre. Whoever has not been abducted lies dead upon the ground. Penelope must act quickly before the pirates return during the next full moon. How can she protect the island and keep the peace amongst the suitors? Only time will tell.

Claire North’s "Ithaca" is a tale about the lives of the women who live in Odysseus’s storied land. So often in The Iliad and The Odyssey, women were in the background. In this book, women are front and center, and that is part of what I love best about it. The story is told in first person omniscient, through the lens of Hera, queen of the gods, and goddess of women and marriage.

This is such a unique and fun way of telling an often-told tale such as The Odyssey. Hera strikes just the right balance between sarcastic humor and the seriousness of a violent conflict-ridden world. Establishing Hera as the omniscient narrator makes for quite a creative and engrossing narrative. Another thing worth mentioning is the gorgeous poetic nature of the writing. It was lyrical and bewitching at certain points of the story.

The plot was ingenious and ironclad. It was fairly consistent throughout. The pacing also was excellent. At no point did it seem like the plot or pacing was slowing down. There was a thrilling element of mystery woven throughout the story as well. That is what hooked me from early on in the book.

For the most part, all of the characters were beautifully written. We have the long-suffering Penelope and her dedicated army of maids who all have to put up with many indignities from the self-important suitors. There are the suitors who cause all sorts of chaos and do nothing but eat and get drunk. They all impatiently wait for her to make a choice. In all, the characters had an authentic “feel,” as if they were the characters rendered in Homer’s The Odyssey.

I had too many favorite characters to count. Some of my favorite characters were: Penelope, all of her maids, Hera, and the other women of Ithaca. Penelope is the proper queen who does what she can to keep the peace on her chaos-filled island. She needs to keep her cool in the face of rude and condescending men. She is so strong and admirable.

At the beginning there is a useful section “Dramatis Personae” that explains who is who. This is a great way to keep track of the extensive cast of characters featured in the story. What I would have liked to see was an Author’s Note. It is apparent that the author must have done considerable research. An Author’s Note would have been great to explain the author’s decisions and the research they conducted.

There were two things I didn’t like. As I was reading through the book, there were numerous grammatical errors. This was distracting and it took me out of the book. Another thing I noticed was modern wording. This, too, was distracting and took away from the story. This second thing, admittedly, is specific to my own tastes. Modern wording could be palatable to the average modern reader.

All things considered, this book was absolutely delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to reading Claire North’s sequel, "The House of Odysseus," in the future. ( )
  queenofheartsreview | Jul 13, 2023 |
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"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 has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom. Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door. No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus' empty throne--not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war"--Dust jacket flap.

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