The Lost Books of The Odyssey: A NovelThe Lost Books of The Odyssey: A Novel by Zachary Mason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

this is my second read of this book, and it’s just as wonderful as the first.

it’s not really written as a novel, though, despite the subtitle. it’s written as a series of short stories, or meditations, or just beautifully-drawn word pictures. my impression of the book overall is that it’s like a year of dreams, all based on the Iliad or the Odyssey; each night, something a little different, remembered in greater or lesser detail.

you get the story of the cyclops; how things might look if Penelope had poisoned herself, or remarried; what happens in Ilium after Odysseus mistakenly hangs himself; the alt-history view of Achilles. so many different aspects of the classic tales, reimagined or extended or seen in narrow focus. throughout the writing is just lovely, often with the feel of mythic language but utterly without pomp. a difficult mark, but the author hit exactly the right note.

purists should probably avoid the book, because that’s-not-the-way-it-happened; war-porn lovers should definitely give it a pass, because it does not glorify war; lit geeks looking for a metafiction ought to roam elsewhere. however, if you are intrigued by the story/myth of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and you are willing to stretch in directions Homer failed to go, i believe you will find this a satisfying read, well worth sitting on your shelf next to Homer’s classics.