by Margaret Atwood


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, November 21

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780571239498
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication date: 08/02/2007
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 122,767
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
She is the author of more than forty books - novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children. Atwood's work is acclaimed internationally and has been published around the world. Her novels include The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye - both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Robber Bride, winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General's Award; Alias Grace, winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and a finalist for the Governor General's Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Oryx and Crake, a finalist for The Giller Prize, the Governor General's Award, the Orange Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent books of fiction are The Penelopiad, The Tent, and Moral Disorder. She is the recipient of numerous honours, such as The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S., Le Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and she was the first winner of the London Literary Prize. She has received honorary degrees from universities across Canada, and one from Oxford University in England.
Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson.


Toronto, Ontario

Date of Birth:

November 18, 1939

Place of Birth:

Ottawa, Ontario


B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967

Read an Excerpt

The Penelopiad

By Margaret Atwood

Random House

Margaret Atwood
All right reserved.

ISBN: 067697418X

Chapter One

A Low Art

Now that I'm dead I know everything. This is what I wished would happen, but like so many of my wishes it failed to come true. I know only a few factoids that I didn't know before. It's much too high a price to pay for the satisfaction of curiosity, needless to say.
Since being dead -- since achieving this state of bonelessness, liplessness, breastlessness -- I've learned some things I would rather not know, as one does when listening at windows or opening other people's letters. You think you'd like to read minds? Think again.

Down here everyone arrives with a sack, like the sacks used to keep the winds in, but each of these sacks is full of words -- words you've spoken, words you've heard, words that have been said about you. Some sacks are very small, others large; my own is of a reasonable size, though a lot of the words in it concern my eminent husband. What a fool he made of me, some say. It was a specialty of his: making fools. He got away with everything, which was another of his specialties: getting away.

He was always so plausible. Many people have believed that his version of events was the true one, give or take a few murders, a few beautiful seduct­resses, a few one-eyed monsters. Even I believed him, from time to time. I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn't think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me. Hadn't I been faithful? Hadn't I waited, and waited, and waited, despite the temptation -- almost the compulsion -- to do otherwise? And what did I amount to, once the official version gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with. Why couldn't they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I had been? That was the line they took, the singers, the yarn-spinners. Don't follow my example, I want to scream in your ears -- yes, yours! But when I try to scream, I sound like an owl.

Of course I had inklings, about his slipperiness, his wiliness, his foxiness, his -- how can I put this? -- his unscrupulousness, but I turned a blind eye. I kept my mouth shut; or, if I opened it, I sang his praises. I didn't contradict, I didn't ask awkward questions, I didn't dig deep. I wanted happy endings in those days, and happy endings are best achieved by keeping the right doors locked and going to sleep during the rampages.

But after the main events were over and things had become less legendary, I realized how many people were laughing at me behind my back -- how they were jeering, making jokes about me, jokes both clean and dirty; how they were turning me into a story, or into several stories, though not the kind of stories I'd prefer to hear about myself. What can a woman do when scandalous gossip travels the world? If she defends herself she sounds guilty. So I waited some more.

Now that all the others have run out of air, it's my turn to do a little story-making. I owe it to myself. I've had to work myself up to it: it's a low art, tale-telling. Old women go in for it, strolling beggars, blind singers, maidservants, children -- folks with time on their hands. Once, people would have laughed if I'd tried to play the minstrel -- there's nothing more preposterous than an aristocrat fumbling around with the arts -- but who cares about public opinion now? The opinion of the people down here: the opinion of shadows, of echoes. So I'll spin a thread of my own.

The difficulty is that I have no mouth through which I can speak. I can't make myself understood, not in your world, the world of bodies, of tongues and fingers; and most of the time I have no listeners, not on your side of the river. Those of you who may catch the odd whisper, the odd squeak, so easily mistake my words for breezes rustling the dry reeds, for bats at twilight, for bad dreams.

But I've always been of a determined nature. Patient, they used to call me. I like to see a thing through to the end.

The Chorus Line:
A Rope-Jumping Rhyme
we are the maids
the ones you killed
the ones you failed

we danced in air
our bare feet twitched
it was not fair

with every goddess, queen, and bitch
from there to here
you scratched your itch

we did much less
than what you did
you judged us bad

you had the spear
you had the word
at your command

we scrubbed the blood
of our dead
paramours from floors, from chairs

from stairs, from doors,
we knelt in water
while you stared

at our bare feet
it was not fair
you licked our fear

it gave you pleasure
you raised your hand
you watched us fall

we danced on air
the ones you failed
the ones you killed

My Childhood

Where shall I begin? There are only two choices: at the beginning or not at the beginning. The real beginning would be the beginning of the world, after which one thing has led to another; but since there are differences of opinion about that, I'll begin with my own birth.

My father was King Icarius of Sparta. My mother was a Naiad. Daughters of Naiads were a dime a dozen in those days; the place was crawling with them. Nevertheless, it never hurts to be of semi-divine birth. Or it never hurts immediately.

When I was quite young my father ordered me to be thrown into the sea. I never knew exactly why, during my lifetime, but now I suspect he'd been told by an oracle that I would weave his shroud. Possibly he thought that if he killed me first, his shroud would never be woven and he would live forever. I can see how the reasoning might have gone. In that case, his wish to drown me came from an understandable desire to protect himself. But he must have misheard, or else the oracle herself misheard -- the gods often mumble -- because it was not his shroud that was at issue, but my father-in-law's shroud. If that was the prophecy it was a true one, and indeed the weaving of this particular shroud proved a great convenience to me later on in my life.

The teaching of crafts to girls has fallen out of fashion now, I understand, but luckily it had not in my day. It's always an advantage to have something to do with your hands. That way, if someone makes an inappropriate remark, you can pretend you haven't heard it. Then you don't have to answer.

But perhaps this shroud-weaving oracle idea of mine is baseless. Perhaps I have only invented it in order to make myself feel better. So much whispering goes on, in the dark caverns, in the meadows, that sometimes it's hard to know whether the whispering is coming from others or from the inside of your own head. I use head figuratively. We have dispensed with heads as such, down here.

Excerpted from The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Penelopiad 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
caemin More than 1 year ago
Margaret Atwood reinvigorates Homer's classic by telling the other side of the story, albeit in a feminist perspective. Well done!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be a good read, Atwood did a good job in my opinion of describing what life could have been like in ancient Greece. The book was an easy read, and had some interesting points on what historical events might have looked like to someone from ancient Greece. Atwood also had some interesting ideas on what Odysseus and Penelope where like, and what really happened those thousands of years ago. Some things i did not like about the book was how Penelope cried about everything happening, and like a person i knew who also read the book said 'She must have drank water all day just to be able to cry like she does!' Over all though, i did enjoy the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Margaret Atwood and mythology=beauty.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a witty, beautifully written book. Couldn't put it down!
Shawscribbles More than 1 year ago
Ah, Atwood. I've been reading her works since my eighth grade teacher gifted me her Journals of Susanna Moodie with an inscription telling me that she looked forward to the day when I would bring her my own published work. I've had a love/hate relationship with Atwood ever since. But The Penelopiad was new to me. My daughter is reading it for her AP English class and she asked me if I could hold on to it for her when we were out this past weekend. It was one of those moments when I found myself early for a meeting and sitting there with my Americano. I had a choice: I could either read the literary book my kid just gave me, or play the Dot game incessantly. I chose to read. And that was it. I was hooked. Now if you've read some of my other reviews, you'll know I'm a huge fan of fractured fairy tales. And while Greek mythology and a retelling of the Odyssey isn't exactly a fairy tale, it has elements of what I love. Atwood tells the story completely from the point of view of Penelope and the twelve maidens. It is classically Atwood and absolutely brilliant. The academic in me, recommends reading The Odyssey before The Penelopiad but it isn't really necessary. If you've seen Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld (a really sh*tty movie) or had a peek at Percy Jackson (a really good series) you'll recognize some of the stories. But the real treasure in The Penelopiad is that it is told from Penelope's point of view (after her death). Only Atwood would take the quintessential hero story and say, wait a minute! What about the 15-year old girl he married and dragged off to his remote island and then left there with a baby while he gallivanted around the countryside for TWENTY years? What about HER story? This telling is a feminist re-imagination of the legend. In classic Atwood style, it re-imagines the tale we think we know and forces the reader to question what the true telling of The Odyssey might be. (If you are unfamiliar with Atwood's work, shame on you! Get reading! But she has taken many, many texts and dug the subtext out and ran with it.) This book has rekindled my love affair with Atwood's work. I highly recommend you check it out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my summer reading book I hope it's good!!!
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
The Penelopiad is Margaret Atwood’s take on the story of Odysseus and his wife Penelope, but from the perspective of Penelope.  It was a fabulous recreation of the Odyssey, with a slightly modern twist.  I like how Penelope explains how Odysseus’s famous exploits could have been explained by myths, or could have been normal but exaggerated experiences.   It kind of reminded me of The Liars’ Gospel in that way, making you think about whether or not the Greek mythology (or Jesus’s legend, if we’re talking about The Liars’ Gospel) is truth or situations that were created.  I highly recommend if you enjoyed The Liars’ Gospel and/or The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller! Thanks for reading, Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rachel Weissler More than 1 year ago
A delightful tongue-in-cheek retelling of classic mythology.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago