Hag-Seed / The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood


I’m pairing these together as they’re both Margaret Atwood retelling extremely old stories through a 21st century lens.

I really enjoyed these, but then I love both Shakespeare and Greek myths, I love modern-perspective retellings, and I love the light academic analysis Atwood throws in. I also found them very quick and easy reads considering they sound like they should be quite heavyweight (they’re not).

This review will be brief as it was originally posted as a recommendation to my personal Facebook page.

Hag-Seed is an extremely meta retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, making it about a man directing The Tempest.

It’s not just a retelling, though, as Atwood uses the main character to express her desired analysis of/perspective on the play. Though it was an easy read and I enjoyed it, some of the explaining of Shakespeare basics, while necessary in the context of the plot, were a bit tiresome. Overall, though, it was entertaining – though I wasn’t very familiar with The Tempest beforehand and, if you are, you may find it less interesting as you’ll easily work out what’s going on.

The Penelopiad is an older book, and retells the events of The Iliad and The Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective (Odysseus’ wife). Her story is interspersed with chapters of her twelve maids acting as a Greek chorus, which I absolutely loved. The book focuses heavily on the maids and their fate, asking the reader to consider their story from a feminist perspective and offering a great starting point for academically considering the myths in this way. Another easy read as its very short, but if you’re a complete beginner to Greek myths you may find it harder to follow. Light and entertaining, I’m heavily into myth retellings at the moment though so probably biased!

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