Lost in The Odyssey

lost-books-of-the-odysseyA book that makes one reconsider a familiar classic while providing entertainment in its own right is always a great choice for a book group. Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey is just such a work. It returns the Homerian epics of The Odyssey and The Iliad to their roots, as oral accounts told in different ways by different tellers. In forty-odd chapters, Mason presents forty-odd different accounts of the adventures of Odysseus, the events of the Trojan War, and the meddling of the Gods in the affairs of great, but often tragically flawed heroes. The Lost Books of the Odyssey can be gulped down in a few short sittings or enjoyed one by one over the years whenever the mood strikes. It’s the kind of book that certain readers will treasure over a lifetime.

Using Odysseus’s intelligence and guile, Achilles’ reckless bravado, Penelope’s faithfulness, Agamemnon’s arrogance, and the qualities of nearly all of Homer’s characters as his template, Mason riffs at will, producing dozens of new fables and stories. It’s a Trojan Horse of a book, but every time you open it, you’re not sure who or what will come tumbling out. While his style is more modern, Mason’s take on the classic work shows the archetypal value of the characters and events, the flexibility that allows a timeless story to be refashioned to take on new shades of meaning.

Readers who grew up with The Iliad and The Odyssey will enjoy this chance to revisit a schoolroom classic, while those who missed out on them will be provided with a good chance to finally experience some of literature’s most fundamental works. At just 256 pages, most readers should be able to combine Mason’s book with a re-reading of Homer’s works in the same month if they wish.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

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