Ithaca by Claire North

Hello Readers,
 
I went into this book with a little knowledge of who Penelope was, but I loved reading this book and seeing her for the Queen that she is. Ithaca gives women the spotlight, and the men of myth are just side characters.

Just a quick little bit of the lore of Penelope. Remember Helen and all the suitors well It was Odysseus who produced the idea of the Oath of Tyndareus, the oath was to protect the chosen husband of Helen. Tyndareus in turn used his influence to ensure that Odysseus would marry his niece, Penelope. Penelope and Odysseus would live happily together in a palace in Ithaca, and Penelope would give birth to Telemachus. The Oath of Tyndareus was invoked by Menelaus, and Odysseus, despite his hesitation, would have to assemble a force and travel to Troy, to fight for the return of Helen. Ten years of fighting and multiple detours on the way home would ensue that Penelope and Odysseus were separated, and during this time, Penelope ruled her husband’s kingdom in his place.
 
Readers we have a version of Hera I like. Claire’s Hera is sarcastic, at times cheeky and outright hilarious at points. Hera is the goddess of women, marriage and childbirth and she narrates this story. Hera narration is great and not something I expected when I picked up this book. At times Hera starts to rage about her position amongst the gods, her conflict with Athena and how pathetic men can be. It was nice to see Hera fa├žade fade a little and I loved seeing have a little a soft spot for scheming queens.
 
 Through Hera’s eyes, we get the perspective of not only Penelope, but Clytemnestra, Elektra, and Penelope’s maids. Penelope is intelligent and I do not envy here having to navigate the hordes of suitors plaguing her home, Clytemnestra is fiercely unremorseful, and Elektra is intelligent and articulate. We also get see parts of the story thought the eyes of son Telemachus, and though several of the suitors. Please don’t be put off by the multiple points of view at not point while reading Ithaca was I confused or unsure who’s POV I was in.
 
Ithaca is set in the aftermath of the Trojan War: we follow Penelope on Ithaca while her husband Odysseus is on one of the many detours the God’s send him on during the Odyssey. Penelope’s husband fought in the war for ten years, and then went missing on his was back for ten years more. Penelope does not waste time and sit sidle while waiting for Odysseus' return, as everyone thinks he’s been dead. So, she must entertain a hall of suitors, contend with a teenage son, and keep the western isles of Greece safe from Mycenae.
 
Claire’s writing was incredibly she managed to utilise the classical storytelling used by Homer. The writing style is fantastic each sentence flows into the next in lovely descriptive and poetic style that just makes you want to keep reading. In my opinion Claire perfectly balanced respecting the material while adding another layer of snarky and sarcasm that didn’t ruin the story but instead added a brilliant layer, I didn’t know the Odyssey needed.

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