*I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*
Ithaca recounts the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus, who awaits her husband’s return from the Trojan War. Seventeen years into the war, the people of Ithaca grow worried as the speculation that Odysseus is dead invites suitors to begin knocking at Penelope’s door. No one is worthy enough to stake a claim to Odysseus’ empty throne, but a cold war is brewing, and any choice Penelope makes may plunge her kingdom into a devastating war. Only through her spy network can Penelope regain control, but all eyes are on her, and if she’s not careful, Ithaca might pay the price.
Ithaca is one of the newest additions of Greek retellings that have made it to our shelves recently as we follow Penelope tread the fine line between the silent wife and while regaining possession of her city until her son is ready to take the throne. But the suitors are getting restless as the island struggles to deal with the pirates that appear on the shores every full moon. To make matters even worse, Penelope’s cousin, Clytemnestra, is rumoured to have fled to Ithaca with her children hot on her trail, seeking revenge for their slain father.
Very little time is spent in the original Odyssey focusing on Penelope’s decades-long wait in Ithaca, so in this retelling, it is refreshing to see her hold her own. North’s rendition is somewhat straightforward but feels seamless to the original tale. While this is the story of Penelope, she is not the storyteller. Instead, Hera and her biting tongue narrate the tragedy of Ithaca, which is a surprising but welcoming addition to the tale.
Ithaca was an enjoyable exploration of Penelope’s tale. While I didn’t find myself as compelled as I thought I would be, this isn’t the end of Claire North’s rendition, and I am indeed impressed enough to see her carry the tale to the end.