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House of Odysseus – Claire North

House of Odysseus – Claire North

I bought this for a friend’s birthday and then she lent it to me (perfect present!). I have read another Claire North novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which I really enjoyed so I was keen to read this one.

Here’s the blurb …

House of Odysseus is the follow up to award-winning author Claire North’s Ithaca “a powerful, fresh, and unflinching” reimagining (Jennifer Saint) that breathes life into ancient myth and gives voice to the women who stand defiant in a world ruled by ruthless men.

In the palace of Odysseus, a queen lies dreaming . . .

On the isle of Ithaca, queen Penelope maintains a delicate balance of power. Many years ago, her husband Odysseus sailed to war with Troy and never came home. In his absence, Penelope uses all her cunning to keep the peace—a peace that is shattered by the return of Orestes, King of Mycenae, and his sister Elektra.

Orestes’ hands are stained with his mother’s blood. Not so long ago, the son of Agamemnon took Queen Clytemnestra’s life on Ithaca’s sands. Now, wracked with guilt, he grows ever more unhinged. But a king cannot be seen to be weak, and Elektra has brought him to Ithaca to keep him safe from the ambitious men of Mycenae.

Penelope knows destruction will follow in his wake as surely as the furies circle him. His uncle Menelaus, the blood-soaked king of Sparta, hungers for Orestes’ throne—and if he can seize it, no one will be safe from his violent whims.

Trapped between two mad kings, Penelope must find a way to keep her home from being crushed by the machinations of a battle that stretches from Mycenae and Sparta to the summit of Mount Olympus itself. Her only allies are Elektra, desperate to protect her brother, and Helen of Troy, Menelaus’ wife. And watching over them all is the goddess Aphrodite, who has plans of her own.

For me, this novel took a long time to get going. I much preferred the second half to the first half and I think it would make a fabulous movie or TV series. It puts the women front and centre in the Greek myths and shows how they have to be and behave to survive in a patriarchal (not to mention misogynist) world. I did enjoy the female-centredness of this novel (and how it is all resolved is fabulous).

I haven’t read Ithaca and perhaps I would have enjoyed this more having read that. I am also not very familiar with the myths so I would have missed any allusions etc.

A review

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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August - Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

A friend mentioned she was reading this book and it sounded interesting, so I thought I would give it a go. It was great – I became very single minded – can’t talk to you now must finish my book!

Here’s the blurb …

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again.
No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.
Until now.
As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. “I nearly missed you, Doctor August,” she says. “I need to send a message.”
This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

Now this novel is science fiction (Harry lives his life repeatedly), but not in the typical sense, so don’t let the fact that there is time travel put you off reading it.  I found this novel compelling – I couldn’t put it down and for once I don’t think it needs editing! The story unfolds gradually with little clues and foreshadowing here and there. It is told from Harry’s point of view and it is very ancedotal – it feels like someone is telling you the story with a few distractions and digressions. Harry is born during World War 1 and in one of his lives dies in 2003, so it is really the story of the 20th Century. It is a bit of a swash-buckling tale of courage, espionage and technical innovation. It is about the search for the Theory of Everything and just how far someone is prepared to go to achieve their goal – is it OK to sacrifice the future for the present? Also, if the world is essentially reset when you die and you repeat your life countless times, how do you make a difference?

Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel – it was fun, well-written, but also made me think from time to time.

Another review …



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