⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 out of 5 stars

Title:                Ithaca

Author:           Claire North

Publisher:        Little, Brown Book Group UK

Format:           ARC, ebook

Publication:     8th of September 2022

When King Odysseus left Ithaca to join the war with Troy, all men of the fighting age sailed with him. For seventeen years, the men do not return, and the island is run by old men and the queen, who dare not take the rule into her hands. At least not officially. Behind the scenes, Penelope consults with a group of women. When the suitors, ready to replace Odysseus, grow impatient, the raiders appear at Ithaca’s coast, she has to maintain the fragile peace and power balance.

Ithaca is one of the stories that give voice to women from Ancient Greek mythology. This time, we explore Ithaca, where the men are either too young or old but still pretend to rule over women. Claire North writes a daring myth retelling, where the narrative voice is given to Penelope and Hera, the goddess of women, marriage and family, who watch over Ithaca from Olympus. Both women struggle to retain their influence and shards of power in a world ruled by men. I loved how North wrote in Hera’s voice— angry and cynical, but always supporting the women, especially against the injustice of men.

What I am still not sure about is the disenchantment of Penelope’s story. She was often used as an example of a ‘good wife’, faithful and loving. As a young girl, I was fascinated with her story. I never thought of her as weak or subjugated but as someone madly in love. In Ithaca, she is indifferent to her husband and uses his absence to build her independence. This adjustment changes the narrative from a sentimental love story to a piece about female strength and solidarity. I admire Claire North’s brave decision to challenge the way Penelope was perceived throughout the ages. Her attempt to introduce formidable women to a male-dominated Ancient Greece was a fascinating read.

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