Book Review

Ithaca – Claire North

Book Title: Ithaca

Series:  Penelope #1

Author:  Claire North

Goodreads Link

Release Date:  09/6/22

Star Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

My favorite Greek myth retelling!

‘The greatest power we woman can own, is that we take in secret . . . ‘

Seventeen years ago, king Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them have returned, and the women have been left behind to run the kingdom.

Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. Whilst he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that husband is dead, and suitors are starting to knock at her door . .

But no one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne – not yet. Between Penelope’s many suitors, a cold war of dubious alliances and hidden knives reigns, as everyone waits for the balance of power to tip one way or another. If Penelope chooses one from amongst them, it will plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning and her spy network of maids can she maintain the delicate balance of power needed for the kingdom to survive.

On Ithaca, everyone watches everyone else, and there is no corner of the palace where intrigue does not reign . . . – Goodreads

What don’t I love about this book! I’m not as familiar with greek myth as I could wish. I’ve really only become more familiar with them through reading other recent books like Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, or Circe by Madeleine Miller. Both of which were very good books, but I didn’t really connect with them as completely as I did with this novel.

It is the story of Penelope as told by the Goddess Hera and let me tell you her voice is utterly wonderful. Sardonic, witty and full of mockery for the men in the world who are working so hard to wield power primarily by subjugating these women (as usual right?). Reminds me of The Joke by Brandi Carlile

“You get discouraged, don’t you, girl?
It’s your brother’s world for a while longer
We gotta dance with the devil on a river
To beat the stream”

It’s been a man’s world since time immemorial and Penelope is walking a tightrope. She does it with skill and grace and the help of her handmaidens and I LOVE all of them. Hera’s insights and comments are maddening and hilarious and I LOVE her. I can’t wait to read the next book. I’m a little fuzzy on the details of how this all works out for Penelope. I am not optimistic since I know how things end up for most women in greek myth, but I really, really harbor hope for her. Did I say I can’t wait for the next book? I really can’t.

It’s been a while since I’ve added a song to a book review but I have the perfect one. It’s a heartbreaker about the Goddess Hera and her beloved daughter Proserpina. For me it dovetails nicely with this book. It is a simple almost lullaby that illustrates the grief and despair that women had to suffer as a result of the abuses of men and male gods. It makes my heart hurt every time I hear it. I’m glad for the recent popularity of these mythical retellings from a female point of view. It’s way past time that we hear from them. We need songs like this and books like Ithaca to remind us that someone pays for the single minded pursuit of male power and ego. Especially these days.

Song for this book: Proserpina by Martha Wainwright


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