A Trio of Mythic Reviews ~ all set in ancient Greece and Troy.
Included reviews of:
- The short 2010 Nebula finalist story – “A Memory of Wind”
- The audio book by Margaret Atwood – The Penelopiad;
- The DVD – Troy: Beyond the Movie.
Review by Shellie for “A Memory of Wind” ~ by Rachel Swirsky
This is the sad tale of Iphigenia, the daughter of King Agamemnon. She is sacrificed by her father to the Goddess Artemis in order to create wind so that they (the Greeks) might sail to Troy - all to avenge the “kidnap” of the unhappily married Helen of Troy (or rather her elopement with Paris - the prince of Troy).
What is so special about “A Memory of Wind” is that unlike other stories around this particular Myth, in this telling Iphigenia is not marginalized. Her death is not taken as an insignificant part of the bigger picture as in the traditional tale. Told in the first person by Iphigenia herself, we see the horror of a teenage girl who thinks she is to be married to the warrior Achilles yet instead is sacrificed. As Rachel Swirsky aptly states in the Nebula Awards Showcase in the preface to the story:
From a certain perspective, Iphigenia is an unsuitable main character. She has minimal agency. She is young and trapped and sad and passive and dying…. But sometimes we are are the ones who are trapped. Sometimes we are the ones who can’t change our fate. Those stories are also important.
Heartbreakingly, after her death our narrator attempts to understand her fate as we hear her speaking to her father - questioning his reasoning for this horrific decision. It is a lovely tale, done well with a light poetic style and an effective ending. 4 stars for this feminist take on a piece of an ancient myth.
This short Nebula nominated story/novelette is available in ebook format and is also included in the paperback edition Nebula Awards Showcase 2011. The ebook includes the above gorgeous cover, and is available at the Macmillan web site for ninety nine cents. http://us.macmillan.com/amemoryofwind; Amazon Kindle US.
This story is also from the perspective of “the other” - a marginalized female character in the myth. It is told in the first person by Penelope, wife of Odysseus and cousin to Helen of Troy.
Interestingly Atwood tells this in an usual and layered way. Penelope is in Hades as she tell the story and pieces are conveyed in poem format at the beginning of each chapter, from the perspective of Penelope's 12 maids. These maids are sacrificed by Odysseus on his return after his 20 year of travels in the Mediterranean after the Trojan war. Needing a “scape goat” to keep his honor in tact, all twelve are hanged for mingling with Penelope’s suitors - who where hoping that Odysseus would not return so that they could take over his household and wealth. Through this story we see the perspective of a women’s life via Penelope’s modern voice re-telling.
Highly creative, Atwood has crammed an amazing amount of information in this story which is only three hours long. It has some interesting scholarly theories around a goddess cult which was believed to have included the 12 maids. Her perspective is light with a humorous thread, but nevertheless is understandably dark, as are most myths. This was my first Margaret Atwood book and I truly enjoyed it and am now a big fan. Highly recommended at 4 stars.
To tie in the two books with some “real” historical information (which I am notoriously lacking in), John and I watched this National Geographic archeological documentary about the mythical city of Troy. We enjoyed it, however we thought that the reenactment scenes of the myth felt “unrealistic” - feeling ridiculously clean and modern, white shiny and groomed.
In contrast the archeological research information was done well and felt authentic and culminated in the the supposition that Troy actually existed. We rate it at 3 stars. It certainly helped me fill in the empty spaces around the mythical and historical Trojan story.
All three of these items – a short story, audio book, and history DVD are myth related and will be included in the Read a Myth Challenge.
The badge links to our host site if your interested in joining in this intriguing challenge.
Thanks for reading!