The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator)

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The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator)

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Buy The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator) at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A much more satisfactory look at ancient Greece than the relentless bloodthirstiness of The Iliad. This book shows why these stories can have the legs to last.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 126 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
ISBN: 9781847805294

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It took ten years but the drama contained within The Iliad finally concluded, and the few people to survive were able to go back home. Many packed up their black ships and sailed from whence they arrived, although one was not to find the journey so direct. Odysseus, and his command of twelve ships, were to be battered and torn, tried and tested in all manner of ways, before they had any hope of finishing their circuitous loops of the classical world. But for all the threat they endured, something equally base and nasty was happening at the home they so actively sought…

This is more like it. After proving, unfortunately, that the Iliad was a good moment at either end, kept apart by scads of field reports of the deaths of famed warriors, this time the creators are able to bring to us something which actually has the timeless quality we seek from myth and legend. There are no end of problems for the enduring sailors to undergo, both on ship and on land, showing tales like this had the blood of fantasy fiction centuries before that genre had a name. There is much more interaction with the Gods, too, thus adding much more creative colour to the drama.

It's easy to see what the storytellers were doing when they wanted to make a hero. To them all you needed to be was ultra-resilient, athletic, intelligent, and hard to kill – but even with the best will of many Gods only a few fit all categories. The death rate here is still high, as the Odyssey decimates its main character's force. Time spent with the Cyclops kills off half the twelve men with him, and the worst encounter sees the fleet of twelve become one solitary boat. Luckily Odysseus has the powers that the Gods' interests at times gives him, but still manages to come across as a rooted human that one can root for.

With there being much more action in this book – certainly more variety, given the diverse dilemmas for everyone – it is clear to see why this is better known than the preceding volume. But that doesn't mean everything here will be familiar – I really don't remember anything of the contents of the final third here from my schooling. But from travelling around the Med a bit – we were certainly told certain rocks on the coast of Sicily were those the Cyclops hurled after 'Nobody's' departing ship – I could recall a lot of this book as having crossed my path before. But that doesn't matter – the fable, the myth, is supposed to have something of the familiar or inevitable about it, and returning to elements of this legend after however long is like revisiting old familiar ground. Being much friendlier than the preceding volume, this book is much more likely to become a noted companion.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Book such as Myths in 30 Seconds by Anita Ganeri show that not all our most long-lasting stories come from the Mediterranean world.

Buy The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Odyssey (The Classics) by Rosemary Sutcliff and Alan Lee (illustrator) at Amazon.com.

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