Waiting for Odysseus
This book gets lots of points for concept. It is a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey from the perspectives of four central female characters: Penelope, Circe, Athena, and Eurycleia. Each character narrates her portion of the story, making for a remarkably thorough overview of the epic, considering this book’s short length of 150 pages. The female characters of the Odyssey are indeed intriguing, as well as central to the plot, and McLaren’s idea is to be commended.
Unfortunately her writing is not up to the task. The four characters have basically identical voices, all of which sound annoyingly anachronistic. (Any book set in ancient Greece which uses the word “boyfriend” does not strike me as very stylistically accurate.) McLaren doesn’t appear to have researched Greek culture much, and her characters exemplify basically modern attitudes. Attempts to delve further into Homer’s complex characters are for the most part botched or simplified. She uses mostly dialogue to further the plot, rather than narrative, but when it does come in, her first-person narrative is often compromised by narration of events which the character would be unlikely to know, only occasionally including side-note explanations of how she learned the facts. All in all, the book’s only real artistic merit is in the concept itself, which is admittedly fascinating; if only the book itself had been better!
Morally, there is a fair amount of sexuality, which is to be expected considering the source material. However, the book has more sensuality to its depictions than does the original. All in all, my advice is: read the Odyssey, and hope that a more competent author will someday take on this daunting exercise in alternate perspective.