The Odyssey by Homer (Using translation by Robert Fitzgerald)

I’m sure many people know of this book. Whether you have heard of it or have even read it yourself, I’m sure that a good majority of people know of The Odyssey by Homer. It is completely fine if you don’t but do be warned, this can be a very difficult read without proper background knowledge. I had to read this in school and I couldn’t be more thankful that my teacher had given us extra pages to brief us. These papers were from Edith Hamilton’s Guide to Mythology and taken from the chapters about the Trojan War. These two chapters were relatively short but hold a lot of important information regarding the Trojan War and prior events to The Odyssey. If you can find these anywhere, they would be great to read before reading The Odyssey. You can most likely find this as a PDF online and I’m serious when I say this was one of the crucial things when it came to my understanding of this book. 

The Odyssey is one of Homer’s epics, completely centered around Greek mythology. Specifically, the Greek hero, Odysseus and his journey after the Trojan War and how he gets home. He journeys through different lands, meeting many other popular characters in Greek mythology such as Calypso, Circe, and many more. The Odyssey also includes Odysseus’ son, Telemachos, who goes on his own journey in hopes of finding his father to save their island, Ithaka. The short version of the story is that while Odysseus is out fighting in war and disappears for 10 years, his home is overtaken by suitors trying to take his wife Penelope’s hand in marriage. Telemachos cannot let this happen, so with Athena’s help, he journeys out to find news about his father. While this happens, Odysseus, who has been stuck on Calypso’s island for many years, has escaped her grasp and tries to make his way home, explaining how he had ended up on Calypso’s island and what had happened to him after the war. However, he is not done with fighting yet as when he comes back home, he must fight for it back.

I remember I tried to read this book over the summer before school started. I couldn’t understand it at all and I got frustrated and gave up on it. But when my teacher explained it all, I ended up enjoying the book a lot. There are plenty of Greek values and conventions in the book which help the story make a lot more sense if you know about them. 

Despite having given up on it before school had even started, once everything made sense, I actually enjoyed this book. A lot of people I know don’t like it or dislike it. They are in the middle of the two which is fine. I liked the unique way of storytelling. It was funny to read about the absurd things that happened like how over 100 men came to pursue Penelope’s hand in marriage. Other times, the book would have five chapters that would just be Odysseus explaining what had happened. While it may sound boring, it was really interesting to read about the places he went to and what he had done to get him to where he was now. I also enjoyed picking apart the characters and analyzing them. Many of the characters are heroic and different in their own way. 

The Odyssey is not an easy book to read due to its way it words certain phrases, the different types of spelling, and is especially hard to read without any prior knowledge. If you don’t know much about Greek mythology but are interested in reading this, I would highly suggest researching and trying to find Edith Hamilton’s Guide to Mythology which is available online. While it may take a while to get used to reading this book, The Odyssey was still enjoyable to me, even though I had to re-read a few pages every now and then. I would definitely recommend this to a Greek mythology lover and even would recommend it to those who have little to no knowledge in that area – with some hesitation.

-Nicole R.

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fitzgerald, is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

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