Length: 192 pages
Personal Enjoyment Factor: 3.5/5
Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.
At last we get to hear the other side of the story of faithful Penelope, self-described (in Atwoods's account) "goody-goody" with a thing for bad boys. And anyone
female who has read The Odyssey knows that Odysseus is the quintessential cad--he lies, he cheats, he shacks up with goddesses...
How does Penelope deal with it all? She acts like water. This is advice from her Naiad mother. Just like water, "if you can't go through an obstacle, go around it." Penelope encounters many obstacles. Unloving parents? Go to backwater Ithaca with your new hubby who probably would have rather wedded your cousin Helen. Unfeeling husband? Fantasize that he will be impressed with your housekeeping skills when he returns from seven years of sleeping with Calypso. Pesky suitors? Pretend you like them. Better yet, tell them you will marry one of them when you finish weaving the shroud that you unravel each night. That'll show 'em! Be the water. Become the water.
Unfortunately, this does seem to be the only survival strategy for Penelope given her situation and time. I yearned for Atwood to make it something different, but that would involve skewing the circumstances, and I got the idea from the notes at the end that she was trying to stick to established mythology rather than rewrite Homer. At least she gave Penelope a voice, a back story, and a dry sense of humor. Helen got a good slamming, which I greatly relished. As for Odysseus, I actually felt sorry for him in the end, still running away to take on another identity. The story of the maids is haunting and tragic, but they sure know how to put on a good show!
Thank you Bellezza and Col for hosting this readalong. I'm a day late and writing quite haphazardly, which is usually how it goes for me with group reads! I'm looking forward to reading others' thoughts, but that will have to wait for tomorrow when my eyes aren't crossed.