The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel by Zachary Mason

September 21, 2011

Plot summary (from the publisher): Zachary Mason’s brilliant and beguiling debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, reimagines Homer’s classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy. With brilliant prose, terrific imagination, and dazzling literary skill, Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homer’s original that taken together open up this classic Greek myth to endless reverberating interpretations. The Lost Books of the Odyssey is punctuated with great wit, beauty, and playfulness; it is a daring literary page-turner that marks the emergence of an extraordinary new talent.

Liked:

  • I liked the general idea of the book, the “what-if” imaginings of the true origins of Homer’s hero and various alternative versions of Odysseus’ famous adventures.

Disliked:

  • I found the utter randomness of the stories to be quite tiresome. There was no order or logic to the presentation, and while that might have been the case with the original as well, the fact remains that this wasn’t the original. It simply wasn’t palatable to me to leap back and forth in time, shift between the POV of a number of characters, etc. The effect was rather disorienting, and didn’t allow me to get comfortable with the book.
  • The stories were way too short, incomplete, and fragmentary for me to enjoy. Again, I realize Mason was probably intent on mimicking the original, but come on. If you’re going to re-imagine the Odyssey, at least make it meatier than this!

Rating:

I checked out The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel from my library because of the buzz I’d heard about it. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in the final product, despite having studied my fair share of the classics when I was a student. I can’t imagine anyone other than hardcore Greek mythology enthusiasts enjoying this one. I give it 2 stars out of 5.

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