3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) Ithaca – Claire North

In general I enjoy a creative retelling of a classic legend/myth so I was excited to read Claire North’s retelling of Penelope’s story of staying behind when all of the men from her island, including her husband Odysseus, leave to fight in the Trojan War. As it turned out, Odysseus took an extra long time getting home as his journey back was fraught with adventure, obstacles, and interference from the Goddesses and Gods and his wife, Penelope had to deal with the daily consequences of the absence of most of the men in a society where men were the ones who held power. 

This book was written from the perspective of the Goddess, Hera and she tells the story of Penelope and the women of Ithaca in their struggle to protect their homeland from raiding pirates as well as the political machinations of other Greek rulers. In theory, I love the idea of this book, however, the execution was lacking in my opinion. The narrative was a bit scattered and not as cohesive as it could have been which made it difficult to follow the story and engage the characters in their individual struggles. Additionally, the characters themselves were not particularly likable and I found myself not really caring much what happened to anyone. 

While I am not mad that I read this book, I did find it to be a bit of a disappointment as I was hoping for a powerful female narrative that told a ‘new’ story about Penelope, her power, and her years ruling on her own in Ithaca, whereas this narrative felt like “if only Odysseus would return, all would be well again.” Retellings can be tough to write/read since everyone comes to the story with preconceived notions of the established characters and their own expectations for the story itself so I commend Claire North for taking on the difficult task of re-imagining Penelope and the women of Ithaca. 

Read on my friends!

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