An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn
Penguin Random House: 9/12/17
eBook review copy; 320 pages
An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn is a very highly recommended memoir of a father, son, and The Odyssey.
Jay Mendelsohn, a retired research scientist, decided to take the undergraduate
seminar on Homer's Odyssey that his son Daniel teaches at Bard
College. It was Jay's hope that this would enable him to understand the
classic epic, as well as why his son has devoted his life's work to the
classics. What follows is not only insights into Odysseus and the epic
poem, but also the relationship between father and son.
The two study together in Daniel's class where Jay challenges his son's
interpretations. He questions why Odysseus is even considered a hero,
after all, Odysseus is a liar, cheats on his wife, often cries, gets his
men killed, and often needs the gods to intervene and rescue him.
Teaching his seminar with his father questioning him actually encourages
Daniel to justify his interpretations of the text as he teaches it.
Additionally, Jay and Daniel take an educational Mediterranean cruise
together that attempts to
re-create the journey of Odysseus.
This is an exquisitely written memoir. It is an insightful, extraordinary, emotional examination of The Odyssey
and the relationship between father and son. Daniels uses the epic to
highlight lessons he is learning in real life with his father. Their
studies and trip uncover secrets that allow Daniel to understand Jay and
their relationship. So while this is a memoir and a study of The Odyssey,
it also represents other father-son relationships and the journeys life
has taken them through. Daniel blends literary analysis with personal
family history and creates a powerful work that is an enduring tribute
to both Jay Mendelsohn and The Odyssey.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.