In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope - wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy - is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumours, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and - curiously - twelve of her maids. In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged Maids, asking: "What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?" In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality - and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.
It seems as though some people carry out their interests in many ways. Such has been the life of Canadian born Margaret Atwood. For someone who did not begin school until the age of 12, Atwood became an avid reader, which probably encouraged her development of varied interests. She identifies as a poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist. I doubt that spare time is in her agenda.
Beginning in 1961, Atwood has published 18 poetry collections, 18 novels, 11 non-fiction books, short fiction writings, two graphic novels, and various other smaller writings, both fiction and non-fiction. She has received several awards for her writings, with some of her works having been adapted for television and film. Those works increased her public exposure even more.
Atwood was married twice, divorced from one husband, and lost her second husband in 2019, after his unfortunate struggle with dimentia. The family, Atwood and her daughter, Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson, had moved to a farm near Alliston, Ontario. Atwood has sister, Ruth, and a brother, Harold.
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