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Penelope's Web by Christopher Rush

Penelope's Web

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Startling, assertive and intense, this is a distinctive and original take on the myth of Odysseus, focusing on reality, creative reality and fabrication. Reading ‘Penelope’s Web’, you quickly realise that the title is entirely appropriate, however make no mistake, this is a book about war, about bloody violence, rape, pillage, death… and it’s about the mental wounds that war inflicts. This is also a book where four-letter expletives and the treatment of women may make you cringe, in fact they should make you cringe. Keep an eye out for the icons heading each section as you start to read, Odysseus, Penelope and the Narrator have very different voices, yet the icons set the tone for the story and your expectations. Odysseus is a soldier, brutal, frank, cunning, able to express the basic animal instincts that cut in during battle, yet he also has a higher awareness of humanity. Penelope weaves gossamer strands of truth, spinning romance, half truths and exaggeration into a tapestry of myth and legend. Occasionally, I found some of the modern day terminology that Odysseus uses, jarred slightly in the storyline, however it served as reminder that war hasn't changed, it still maims and steals mental wellbeing and lives. Christopher Rush has written a tenacious and thought- provoking tale that is so graphically powerful, it feels as though you’re watching a film in the privacy of your own mind. ~ Liz Robinson

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Gill Dally-Fitzsimons - 'A compelling read.'
  • Ed Robson - 'Penelope’s Web is a retelling of the ancient Classical legend of the war between Greece and Troy, a gory and sexualised romp that is not for the fainthearted.'
  • Ann Peet - 'Clever retelling of Greek myths through the voices of Odysseus and Penelope.'
  • Angie Rhodes - 'This is Greek Mythology with a difference. The story itself is a clever one...There are scenes which I did find hard to read (rape scenes).'
  • Sarah Musk - 'A highly stylised book about the Trojan Wars and the adventures of Odysseus.  A fantastic telling of the story but beware the extreme violence.'
  • Jan Kirkcaldy - 'Some of it was brilliant but overall it was not something I would recommend to anyone, even others with an academic background.  Something just wasn’t right.'


Penelope's Web by Christopher Rush

Odysseus returns to Ithaca after nearly twenty years, half of it spent as a soldier and the other half as a soldier of fortune. During his absence his wife Penelope remains faithful, despite Odysseus being missing and presumed dead, but when her husband suddenly reappears he confronts those who have been trying to seduce his wife and kills them all.


'Penelope's Web is a book about war that, like The Naked and the Dead or Catch-22, manages to be about very much more... Christopher Rush has written a profound meditation not just on our present condition but on how we all live inside 'the web', how we weave fact, the way we make and unmake fictions, and how we choose to live and die by them' - Brian Morton, Scottish Review of Books; Hugely entertaining and instructively disturbing... it's also fiercely learned... The novel is beautifully written and superbly paced. Its 500 pages whizz past like one of Odysseus'
deadly arrows

' - Dr Jon Hesk, Hellenist Lecturer at St Andrews University; 'Read it if you yearn for something startlingly original and uncompromising.' - Antonia Senior, Historical Book of the Month, The Times; 'Few Scottish writers are as visceral or painterly in their prose' - Herald'

About the Author

Christopher Rush

Christopher Rush was born in St Monans and taught literature for thirty years a teacher of literature in Edinburgh. His books include A Twelvemonth and a Day and the highly acclaimed To Travel Hopefully. A Twelvemonth and a Day served as inspiration for the film Venus Peter, released in 1989.

The story was also reworked by Rush in a simplified version in 1992 as a children's picture book, Venus Peter Saves the Whale, illustrated by Mairi Hedderwick, which won the Friends of the Earth 1993 Earthworm Award for the book published that year that would most help children to enjoy and care for the Earth.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th September 2015


Christopher Rush

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Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited an imprint of Birlinn General


509 pages


Historical Fiction
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites

Historical fiction



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