Author: Adèle Geras
Release date: 2005 UK
Genre:Historical / Historical Fantasy / Greek Mythology
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Amazon:
The white owl comes to rest on a fig tree that grows below Penelope's chamber. This is the only room in the palace where a light is still burning. This is where she is needed.
Penelope, faithful and devoted wife of Odysseus, has been waiting for more than ten years for her husband to return to their home, Ithaka, a beautiful island set in the blue waters of the Ionion Sea. There has been no word from him since the end of the war in Troy and she has no idea whether he survived the sack of the city.
Klymene is a young handmaiden, and when the peace of Ithaka is shattered by the arrival of strangers ambitious for the hand of her mistress, Penelope, she too becomes caught up in passions inspired by the gods...
Ithaka turns our attention to the story of Penelope. The wife that Odysseus left behind when he led the Greek army in the Trojan war. It is thirteen years since Odysseus first set sail for Troy and Penelope is still waiting for her husband to return. She waits and her loyalty unwavering. She would wait forever for her beloved husband to return. Unfortunately, not everyone believes as Penelope does, that Odysseus will return to Ithaka. When the Queen dies, Penelope finds herself ruler of the island in her husband's absence. But as a woman in such times, she has little power to exercise over her land. Her father-in-law Laertes wishes for her to remarry. He has lost hope that Odysseus will one day return to Ithaka.
Penelope is visited by the goddess Pallas Athene. Penelope is promised that Odysseus will return home safely if, and only if, she remains constant and unchanging. Pallas Athene tells her to work at her loom. Through Penelope's weaving, we see some of the challenges that Odysseus faces as he journeys home. This story is about the strength of love a wife's love and the huge weight upon her shoulders to be constant in her love for her husband and in her faith in the Gods.
Klymene is Penelope's handmaiden. She and her twin brother Ikarios were raised by her Grandmother as was Penelope's own son Telemachus. The three children are inseparable during their childhoods. As they grow into adolescence, the dynamic of their relationship changes. Telemachus is struck by cupid's arrow for a new servant girl, Melantho. Klymene's feelings towards Telemachus transform into something much more romantic than she feels for a brother. Ikarios is hopelessly besotted with Melantho. Aphrodite weaves her cruel spells upon the hearts of Ithaka's young people. The story is full of bitter-sweet moments, of longing and of the very human need to be loved.
Klymene is a constant source of comfort to Penelope. She helps carry her burden and gives her courage to remain constant. When King Laertes invites noble Lord Leodes to Ithaka, hordes of uninvited suitors come to the island to try to woo Penelope into marrying them. As the weeks and months go by, the cruel and barbaric Lords turn to ever more vile methods to force Penelope into choosing one of them. She is in an impossible position. She wants to do as Pallas Athene has asked and stay constant and unchanging but all around her people are telling her that Odysseus must be dead. Under such pressure could any heart remain constant? Will the people of Ithaka suffer because Penelope cannot do as she must? Penelope's love and faith is tested to the very limit. As I read, I felt every emotion that swept through Penelope's heart.
Ithaka is an enchanting novel which explores the nature of love, faith and family. There are heart-breaking tragedies as the young characters cannot see beyond the lies they are told. But this is also a novel full of such hope. Kindness transcends so many boundaries and some characters show great selflessness in their choices. Ithaka is a deep, remarkable story. The ending was beautiful and just what my heart desired.