Book Review: The Odyssey

Did you ever have to read the Odyssey for school? Ya? Me too. And I hated it. It felt like we were stopping every sentence because apparently everything was this elaborate symbolism and we had to decode every single line of text. Needless to say, we never even finished it in my freshman english class in high school.

But then I picked it up again when I was a senior. I read it myself, on my own time and I really enjoyed it. I find books are always more enjoyable when there’s no pressure of being tested on it or asked to write an essay in a short period of time explaining some little detail you may have missed or forgotten.

So I reread the Odyssey, and it was actually good. It was my classic of choice for the year (I try to read at least one every year) and it was surprisingly enjoyable. Now if you’ve read Percy Jackson, and I had not at this point, then a lot of the story is actually very important. I’ve always loved Greek Mythology and this incorporates so many important stories. Agamemnon, Odysseys, Athena, Poseidon, Calypso. All names you would know. But even if you haven’t read those (like me at the time) it’s still a good read.

We predominantly follow two main characters around. Odysseus and his son Telemachus.Odysseus still hasn’t made it home from the Trojan war. His ship was wrecked because he angered Poseidon by blinding the cyclops and is trapped on Calypsos island. Meanwhile poor Telemachus has never known his father and is trapped at home with his mother who is being hounded by suitors. The suitors are living in their house and eating their food drinking their wine, etc.

Athena steps in to try and help reunite the family. She’s always liked Odysseus because he’s clever. So she appears to Telemachus and sets events in motion. She sends him in search of news of his father. Meanwhile she instruments Odysseus’ release from the island and sets him on his journey home. It’s Odysseus’ story that I really enjoyed. I loved when he finally lands and we see him visiting the different places he stops. I thought the way Greeks invited in strangers and had to feed them and give them a place to rest was so interesting. I loved the games they had while Odysseus was in town.

But of course the whole story is leading up to the big reunion and Odysseus is disguised as a beggar but is finally reunited with his son. He returns to his home, still as the beggar and puts all the suitors to shame in an archery contest and then he kills just about all of them. But don’t worry Athena helped so apparently according to the gods that was ok. It’s nice to see Telemachus fight with him and that Telemachus is so much more sure of himself by the end of the story than he was at the start.

Athena basically solves all the problems at the end too. All the parents of the suitors wanted to kill Odysseus since he killed their sons but she makes them forget about that and recognize Odysseus as their king. But my entire point is that what was once a terrible book for school was actually an interesting adventure novel if you don’t have to worry about being tested on all the little details.

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