I finally finished The Odyssey yesterday. I don't know how to say this strongly enough, but I LOVED it. I came at it a little nervous...I was hoping that it wouldn't be too challenging...it's summer after all, and my brain feels fried sometimes from the heat (like now). I was using the Robert Fagles translation, which was very easy to follow (thanks Brienne for the recommendation!).
Everyone knows the basic plot of The Odyssey: Odysseus can't get home from the Trojan War, try as he might: the gods are conspiring against him. The story starts out with Telemachus, Odysseus's son. He's fed up with the suitors eating all his food, so he goes out in search of word of his father. Then we come to Odysseus, who makes his way to some friendly people, and there he recites all his adventures: the cyclops, the sirens, Circe, Calypos, the Lotus-Eaters, etc. Eventually, he is able to get home, but disguises himself so that the suitors don't kill him. Pretty much, everything is amess and Odysseus has to "clean house" as he says. He kicks the suitors ass. Everyone is glad he's finally home.
The narrative is sometimes bloody, sometimes crude, sometimes beautiful. What really struck me is that here is a story that is more than 2,500 years old. And here I was totally engrossed, amazed...completely rooting for Penelope, Telemachus and Odysseus. I know that everyone says that Don Quixote is number one, and I can see why people would say that, but The Odyssey was AWESOME! It's like the Casablanca books...absolutely perfect, encompassing many different elements and excelling at them all.
If you haven't read this, definately read it. It is absolutely fabulous. I'm just embarassed that it took me 26 years to read it. Shouldn't I have read this in middle school? Oh, right - they don't teach the classics anymore.