Many of us grew up reading the myths and legends from Ancient Greece and Rome. We followed Herakles as he succeeded at one impossible task after another; we cringed when Orpheus turned round at the last moment so that Eurydice fled back into the underworld; we grinned when Odysseus outsmarted the cyclops, Polyphemus.

But behind all these men were the women: silent players in the stories of their husbands, fathers, and brothers. Often rescued or cursed, frequently seduced or raped, these women acted only as accessories to the gods and heroes of the ancient world.

With us for this episode is Claire North, whose recent novel Ithaca has taken readers on a new journey to that fabled land, focussing on Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who managed to hold at bay 108 suitors while her husband was voyaging for two decades. 

The Odyssey is one of the most famous tales in history. Join us as we ask: but what if a woman wrote this?

Mentioned in this episode:

  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • The Oresteia by Aeschylus 
  • Queer Eye
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Catherine’s first novel, Mirror Dreams, was completed when she was 14 years old. The book was published in 2002 and garnered comparisons with Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman. She went on to publish a further seven young adult novels under her own name, earning her extensive critical acclaim and two Carnegie nominations for her novels Timekeepers and The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle.

While studying International History at the London School of Economics, she wrote an urban fantasy series for adults, writing as Kate Griffin. On graduating LSE she went to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts to study Technical Theatre and Stage Management.

Throughout her training she continued to write, and while working as a lighting technician at the Royal National Theatre wrote her first Claire North novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which became a word-of-mouth bestseller and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

She has since published several hugely popular and critically acclaimed novels, won the World Fantasy Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and been shortlisted for the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, a Locus Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.

Catherine currently works as a live music lighting designer, teaches women’s self-defense, and is a fan of big cities, long walks, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.