30 Day Book Challenge
Day 04 - A Book That Reminds You of Home: The Odyssey by Homer, adapt. by Peter Oliver, illust. by Roger Payne
This is one of the tougher questions on the challenge list, mostly because the phrase “reminds you of home” can be interpreted in many different ways. I’ve chosen to interpret it to mean “a place where one feels safe, secure, and welcome,” which in its turn can mean an actual, physical place, or something more metaphorical.
It’s the latter, metaphorical interpretation that I refer to when I think about The Odyssey - and not just any copy of Homer’s epic, but the one I’ve pictured above: a lavishly illustrated children’s version, adapted by one Peter Oliver and with art done by Roger Payne.
I first received this copy when I was eight or nine, can’t remember which, specifically. I know I got it from my mother as a birthday gift, though for the life of me I can’t remember if she got it from the States herself, or if she asked someone to get it for her. Either situation is possible, because I’d already presented a great deal of interest in ancient Greek mythology by the time I was seven, and Mom was more than happy to indulge me in my interests. I don’t know, either, why she got me The Odyssey and not The Iliad; my best guess is that there’s no children’s version of The Iliad, or if there was my mother didn’t know it existed. Either way, I read The Odyssey before The Iliad, which has produced an eternal, abiding bias towards Odysseus.
As for why this reminds me of home, it mostly boils down to the fact that this book, and James Gurney’s Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time (more on that later on in the challenge), arrived in my life just when I really started reading for myself, without my mother’s intervention in my reading choices. Up until that point she’d been the one who picked out the books she put on the bookshelf I and my sister read from, but by the time I got this I was already taking an active role in deciding my own reading. I’m incredibly fortunate in that my mother never tried to censor any of my reading: if I wanted to read about it, she got me something related to my interests. The only books that were off-limits were romance novels, though she did say I could start reading them when I was “older” - which happened to be when I turned sixteen.
This book is really the starting point for a whole chunk of my reading interests to this day: mythology, fantasy, adventure - they’re all genres I adore, and they all begin with this. It’s even had a hand in my choice of favorite character: between brains and brawn, I’m always going to choose brains, because although Odysseus had both, he consistently chose to use his brains when his muscles would not have gotten him out of a situation. And when I’m feeling a little sad, or when I just need to decompress, I can turn to this, and everything gets much better. If that’s not like coming home, I don’t know what is.
P.S.: The work of the artist, Roger Payne, can be found online, though I need to issue an NSFW warning, because, as it turns out, he does quite a lot of male homoerotic art, much of which is quite explicit. Other than that, though, he’s done some other illustrations with historical and mythological themes, into which the art he’s done for this version of The Odyssey falls.