By Tracy Barrett
Henry Holt & Company, $16.99, 261 pages
“I had returned to the place that was not, on the day that was not, bearing the thing that was not, and I knew what defined a king.”
Tracy Barrett’s King of Ithaka takes the familiar Homeric tale of Odysseus and retells it from Telemachos’ point of view. A sense of authenticity is maintained by the use of Latin spellings of words not Christian (ie: Kyklops for Cyclops). However, as this is written for a contemporary audience, there are modern patterns of speech which will come out from time to time. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen enough to take you completely out of the story.
One thing that readers of The Odyssey will find different is that Telemachos is not a courageous character in the sense that his father Odysseus is considered. Throughout the book, Telemachos is afraid and self-preserving. He has moments of compassion for his traveling companions and others he encounters along the way. In the end, Telemachos finds that he has a different kind of courage – perseverance or strength of will. Another notable difference is that at the end Odysseus is not the character that he is presented as in The Odyssey. There is a nice two page epilogue explaining these differences and the fates of the major players in this tale.