Whitbread Award–winner Clarke follows up The War at Troy (2004) with a splendid retelling of The Odyssey.
On his ten-year journey home after the fall of Troy, wily war hero Odysseus’s promise of solidarity with his kingly neighbors brought many reluctant warriors into the Trojan adventure at the beginning, and Odysseus came up with the clever idea for the equine gift that sealed the city’s fate. But the war’s end, which should have meant a quick return to Ithaca’s domestic pleasures and the devoted Penelope’s embrace, was just the halfway mark in this warrior’s tour of duty. Disgusted and disheartened by the conquerors’ slaughter of the Trojans, and even more revolted by his own participation in the bloodbath, Odysseus departs separately from the rest of the Greeks. He will be washed up by storms and the fates on a succession of shores, encountering lotus-eaters, enchantresses, giants and sibyls, haunted always by the horrific acts at the end of the great conflict. The homeland, meanwhile, is horrified by tragic events in Mycenae. Conquering Agamemnon has returned to the scene of the crime that cursed the great adventure: the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis. Queen Clytemnestra has neither forgiven nor forgotten, and blood will spill. On Ithaca, faithful Penelope is nearly alone in her belief that her husband is alive and will return to give the bum’s rush to the suitors who hang about the palace plotting to take over Odysseus’s property.
Clarke’s interpretation of this fabulous story is a delicious blend of ancient wisdom and modern insights.