It's always interesting, when entering into a book you've never read before, to see a book defy your expectations. I've read epic poetry before, but none like this, and now I see why THE ODYSSEY is so often considered the backbone of western literature. The reason is how it feels so incredibly modern, despite its age, and this is testimony to the fact that storytelling hasn't changed; what made for a good tale in the days of Homer (assuming a man named Homer even existed), still makes for a good tale in the modern world.

THE ODYSSEY has everything: swashbuckling, adventure, humor, and even copious amounts of gore. This last detail was perhaps the most surprising for me. At every turn someone is disemboweled, beheaded, or tortured, and the verbal descriptions of these deaths are always vivid. At times I felt like I was reading a novel as written by Quentin Tarantino. I would say, however, the violence, while impactful and gory and descriptive, is never vulgar or upsetting or repugnant. That said, it is colorful and graphic.

I don't particularly like Odysseus, but he is very heroic in the Greek sense of the word: he's intelligent and ruthless, and the gods favor his every move. But his journey is one worthy of your time, I think, and the translation I read (the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, translated by Robert Fagles, on Kindle) was engaging and colorful and readable. There were plenty of notes throughout the book, serving to explain details to the reader which would have been obvious to the original audience. In this way, the book is allowed to come to life, and come to life it does.

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