As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

February 7, 2012

ODYSSEY, by Homer. Translated by Stanley Lombardo, 2000

The Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of everyman's journey through life. In the myths and legends that are retold here, renowned translator Robert Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer's original in a bold, contemporary idiom and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery. This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the general reader, and to captivate a new generation of Homer's students. (Goodreads)

Review by Megan, reader and writer wannabee

I love Homer’s Odyssey! It has all the elements of an epic adventure story: a boy seeking to become a man, a hero struggling to return home and a woman who has had to fend for herself for a very long time. The stories of these three characters – Telemachus, son of Odysseus, Odysseus himself and Penelope, wife of Odysseus – comprise the Odyssey, which was a surprise for someone who thought it only contained Odysseus’ adventures.

I loved every moment of it! I thrilled as Telemachus searches for people who can tell him about the father he never knew, people like Menelaus and Nestor, old acquaintances from the Iliad, which I had just finished. I nearly jumped up and down shouting “Oh, oh, I know him, Telemachus! He fought with you father at Troy! Oh, oh, ask him about this!” I cried with Penelope as she wept for her husband and applauded her efforts to keep her disgusting suitors at bay. Penelope is possibly my favorite girl in Greek mythology, since she uses her brain AND manages to live happily ever after. And, of course, there was Odysseus. I rode the waves beside him, cursing those who kept him from home, groaning as yet another crewmember did something stupid, or occasionally *cough Cyclopes cough* groaning as Odysseus did something below his usual level of intelligence. That is perhaps the most striking thing about Odysseus. Whereas most Greek heroes tend to be fixated on killing and “winning glory”, Odysseus uses his brain. Oh, he likes beating up bad-guys and earning glory too, but he is cleverer when he goes about it. And he wants to go home, so much so that he turns down Calypso’s offer of immortality (most heroes would’ve jumped for this) and King Alcinous’ offer of marriage to his daughter (again, not the heroic norm). This loyalty to Penelope and his home is both striking and refreshing in an Ancient Greek Hero.

The end is good too. There’s lots of fighting, and the routing of the disgusting suitors I spent most of the book longing to smack; everyone gets their just desserts, and the reunion of Odysseus and Penelope is tender and beautiful.

Overall, it was a wonderful read that pulled me from one page to the next with its stunning visuals, excitement and drama – none of it overdone. I will warn you that the idea of expendable crewmen was invented by Homer, so don’t get attached to Odysseus’ crew: none of them make it back.

Market: I wouldn’t give it to anyone under the age of 14 or 15.
Language: Mr. Lombardo translates such that if the characters swear in Greek, he uses a close equivalent in English. Beware!
Sensuality: Nothing is described, but is acknowledged that it happens. PG-13
Violence: There is some gore, especially at the end.
Mature Themes: finding lost identity, punishing of criminals in the Ancient Greek style, murder, raising ghosts with barley and wine, Odysseus being with a couple ladies (Calypso and Circe), etc.

Book formats:


Alice said...

I tried reading it once but didn't finish. Maybe I'll try again.

Anonymous said...

I read so many of these "old" stories in college--and I was amazed by how similar they were (perhaps not in style, but in plot) to the books that were being published that were contemporary stories! The power of a truly timeless tale, eh?

Great review, Megan!