(Cover picture courtesy of Excuse Me, I’m Writing.)
The award-winning author of The Four Seasons retells The Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseus and Penelope’s daughter.
With her father Odysseus gone for twenty years, Xanthe barricades herself in her royal chambers to escape the rapacious suitors who would abduct her to gain the throne. Xanthe turns to her loom to weave the adventures of her life, from her upbringing among servants and slaves, to the years spent in hiding with her mother’s cousin, Helen of Troy, to the passion of her sexual awakening in the arms of the man she loves.
And when a stranger dressed as a beggar appears at the palace, Xanthe wonders who will be the one to decide her future-a suitor she loathes, a brother she cannot respect, or a father who doesn’t know she exists…
For me, this book was a solid ‘meh’. There were some elements that were awesome and some that weren’t but the main reason for my indifferent reaction is the lack of emotional quality in Laurel Corona’s writing. I know Xanthe falls in love at one point. Do I really feel it? Not so much.
My favourite part of the whole novel is probably the level of detail that was put into it. Laurel Corona seamlessly wove Xanthe’s story into the greater story of the Trojan War, bringing life into a character Homer never considered important. I loved all the little details about weaving but also the details of daily life in Ithaca and Sparta. The author has this way of describing things that makes you feel like you’re actually there. It’s a truly magical experience.
One of the so-so aspects of the novel was the characters. Helen was fascinating and I can honestly say I would’ve preferred hearing her point of view than Xanthe’s. Xanthe is a rather bland character overall and as I said earlier I felt no emotional attachment to her. She got mad at times, was in love, felt true happiness, etc. Yet I, the reader, felt pretty much none of it. I was being told she experienced these things rather than experiencing them right along with her. The odd part was that I really felt for Helen so it could be a matter of personal preference. Who knows?
The plot does drag in some places, particularly during Xanthe’s childhood in Ithaca. I love all of the little details to be sure, but some of them really just didn’t need to be there to understand the story. Sometimes Xanthe’s chronicle dragged when she was with Helen in Sparta and that was rather disappointing considering how amazing Helen is in this interpretation. Overall the plot was fairly good but I did feel let down at the end of the novel when Odysseus returns. It just felt like Laurel Corona was rehashing the myth without adding a new variation on it.
Basically, meh. Penelope’s Daughter has some good and some bad in it. It’s worth a try if you think it sounds interesting but I wouldn’t go out of my way to convince you to read it.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.