Friday 16 June 2023

Fave Friday

Five Favourite Lines from Ithaca by Claire North

It has been a pleasure previously remarked upon to get back into fiction reading over the past few years and I am now into the habit of picking up books from the library and, in the case of this one, actually reading it before it is due back (as a kid I used to take out 6 books and read them all before they were due back...woe is me). This has broadened the variety of books I'm reading and reminded me of the pleasure of picking up a book because of what's written on the back cover, rather than just because someone recommended it on Twitter/it's historical fiction/it's 99p on Kindle. 

Most recently, I finished Ithaca by Claire North. It's an imagining of what Penelope might have done with herself while she was waiting for Odysseus to return from Troy, as the suitors ate her out of house and home. I have enjoyed a few of these Greek-myths-from-women's-perspectives over the past couple of years but this one was particularly good, mainly because of the cracking bits of prose that create a very believable representation of how women operate within tightly-bounded gender roles - namely, that they largely get on and run things and nobody really notices. There's some quite interesting undertone of DV and coercive control that undercuts the humour and shifts the perspective of quite a lot of bits of Greek mythology. To top it off, the book is narrated by Hera, so you sort of know what you're getting from the start. 

Here are my favourites:

1. ...who feels the ageing process accelerating with every moment he spends in the chamber (this is sometimes a solid mood of mine in the classroom)

2. Penelope says, 'Help me, I grow faint.' Autonoe at once kneels by Penelope's side, holding her left hand in hers, and though this is a profoundly pious scene of feminine weakness, it is also now a huddle of curved back and womanly distress that hides what Eos does next from all onlookers.

3. 'Ah,' mutters Penelope. 'I see. Medon, forgive me. I find myself overcome with womanly weakness and must retire.' 

4. 'We shall now run away and hide in a ditch.'...Donning his tatty, faded grey cloak, he nods once and, with the dignity of the centaur, proudly runs away.'

5. 'How do you hide an army? What a foolish question. You hide them in precisely the same way you hide your success as a merchant, your skill with agriculture, your wisdom at politic and your innate cunning wit. You hide them as women.'

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