Saturday, January 15, 2011

Penelope's Daughter by Laurel Corona

Reviewed by Vanitha Sankaran

"I took a charred ember from the fire and, going to the hidden side of my weaving I darkened what I had woven about Sparta until it was caked in black. Sometimes from the front of the loom I stare where I know the black is hiding, imagining little holes burning through the cloth. We think we can control the story we present to the world, but the truth always lies in the background, awaiting its chance to illuminate and scar.”

Most of us have read Homer’s The Odyssey at some point in our lives. While Odysseus’ battles and harrowing experiences made for great reading, not many of us likely gave much thought to the people he left behind—his wife and son, and in Laurel Corona’s fertile imagination, his daughter Xanthe.

This is not a simple retelling of a well-read epic. Rather, Ms. Corona has turned the taken prominent characters from the Trojan War and used them to create a completely new tale. The story is told through Xanthe’s point-of-view. Using her loom, she weaves the adventures and trials of her life into a picture book tapestry. These were my favorite moments, when Xanthe literally transformed her feelings into colorful physicality.

The story is told in three parts: Xanthe’s younger days when her world is full of politics that she is free to observe; her maiden days when she hides at Helen of Troy’s court to escape those very politics in the form of suitors; and the final installation when she returns home to her family, and her father.

This book is well researched and beautifully portrayed. If you are a lover of ancient Greece, this tale will suck you right in.

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