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Hi! My name is Margot. My blog is about the things I love to do. That could be what I'm reading, places we visit, my family, food, or whatever else is happening. I hope you'll stay and visit a while. Contact me by email: joyfullyretired (at) gmail (dot) com.

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A Look at an Old Classic – The Odyssey

I set a goal for myself at the beginng of the year to read some of those great books I’ve been putting off for years. I joined a couple of read-a-longs, hoping that reading with others would be a good incentive. Knowing that others are reading the same thing at the same time is very enjoyable.

I clipped right along with A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and, even though I started late, I’m having a good time reading the letters contained in Clarissa. But, I had to call it quits on Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I just couldn’t keep up. I intend to keep reading it, just at a slower pace.

This past week I finally finished one that’s been on my to-read list for decades: The Odyssey by Homer.  My two older kids read this is college and, in fact, they both wrote their senior thesis on it. How could I not read it?

I’m going to tell you about The Odyssey, but you’re going to get the kindergarten version. I haven’t talked with either of my kids about the book since I read it. I’m waiting for a time when we can all sit down together and have a really good discussion about it.

This is a giant of a book but let me see if I can summarize it in a few paragraphs:

Odyseus was a rich and powerful king. He went off with many men to fight an important war. The battles took a long time, ten years, but he was very successful. He set out for home but ran into so much trouble that it took him  another ten years. (Actually a nymph named Calypso kept him captive in her cave for seven of those years because she wanted him to marry her. I don’t think he was suffering too much.)

Back home at the palace, things became chaotic for his wife, Penelope, and there son Telemachus. Because Odyseus has been gone so long, most people thought he was dead.  Suitors have taken over Odysseus’ palace trying to get Penelope to marry one of them. The palace and it’s stores were a wreck because of them.

Penelope and her son were holding out hope that Odysseus will come home alive. Finally, after an enormous amount of drama, Odysseus arrives home, although at first, no one recognizes him.

Interspersed throughout the story are familiar tales about the gods of Greek mythology. There are stories about the great heroics various people have performed and want to tell in great, sometimes gory, detail. There are also loads of messages and lessons to be learned. This ancient Greek tale has parts that are familiar. I won’t spoil the story by telling you the ending. Just trust me, it’s a good tale of how Odysseus arrives at his beloved Ithaca and how he handles all the chaos.

I struggled reading this big epic poem for about a month. Finally, someone suggested I .listen to it. It was at this point that The Odyssey opened up for me. Hearing the story told as it was probably told by the bards for generations, was the perfect reading format. The reader of the story helped my imagination blossom and I could “see” what was happening. It became a rich and beautiful story, and really rather fun. So, if you have a yen to read something very old, I suggest listening to The Odyssey.

With this nice little taste of great classic literature, I’ve decided to read even more. I’ve created a list of more than fifty books I intend to read over the next five years. My list is on a special page. It’s underneath the header, titled My Classics List. I hope you’ll join me in reading some of these books. Check my list out and, if you’re interested in a read-a-long, let me know.

8 comments to A Look at an Old Classic – The Odyssey

  • My son’s read this one too but I’m afraid I would struggle with it. The kindergarten version is just right for me.

  • I find a lot of the classics go down easier as audio versions! But still, I figure I’m so way past college, I deserve the treat of easier books! :–)

  • I like your kindergarten version. I read this in prep school – in Latin! – so I think I’d enjoy an English version now.

  • This is on my list to read this year as well. We’ll see if I get to it.

  • I’m still reading Bleak House too but not on the schedule that was posted! I’m enjoying it but it’s all too much for me! I like your abbreviated version of The Odyssey…dont’ know if I can listen or read this one! I do however think it’s cool that you read it and are going to discuss it with your children!!

  • I’m still reading Bleak House. The first week I jumped in and read past the assigned chapters and then since then I’ve slowed down so much I’m now behind, so I guess I’ve dropped out of the official challenge too. I’m actually liking the book, but not liking to have to read to a schedule…guess I’m just too “retired” to follow anybody else’s timeline. Sometimes my mood is just to read something lighter for a while.

    As for the Odyssey — I have a person goal to read books I know about but have never actually read…but there are so many … I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to jump this far back on my list. Although your review inspires me. So thank you (I think ;>))

  • It never occurred to me to read The Odyssey – I think I may have read sections of it in a Mythology class I had in high school. I think it would be great fun – provided there were some kind of character list/guide that I could use to keep track of which were which. I bet you are right, this would go down more enjoyably via audio. Thanks for the suggestion!!!

    I have a suggestion for you – add Faulkner to your Classics List and I’ll read any of his work along with you :0)

  • I know I read most of this in my college mythology class but now I think I might give it a listen. Glad this one worked for you that way.