Penelope and her maids are in Hades and in a sometimes whimsical, conversational tone they tell their story in prose and song. This is their story, that which has been left unsaid in Homer's epic is now retold explaining the relevant exclusions from the accepted version. Penelope was a pragmatist and her arch enemy was not Odysseus (who comes across as something of a jerk), but rather her cousin Helen of Troy, a conniving, catty, vixen who plays the role of the middle school bully.
This is a fun book to read. It is playful and enjoyable. The voice of Penelope is rendered with exquisite realism. It is not surprising that it was adapted into a play; Penelope rises from the pages as a real woman and begs to be portrayed on stage. This is no two-dimensional image of the devoted wife, the faithful helpmeet. Penelope has foibles and faults a-plenty, but they never distract from her likeablility. I didn't realise until I'd almost finished the novella that I'd actually read it before. That I had forgotten it is surprising in one way - I have a very good memory, if not for the content, at least for the titles of books I've read. On the other hand, it wasn't a book that deeply resonated with me this time either. It was a fun exercise in revisionist mythology and story crafting, but not one of my favourite of Margaret Atwood's books.