Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic
Daniel Mendelsohn, Read by Bronson Pinchot

Book cover image

Narrated By: Bronson Pinchot

Duration: 10 hours and 37 minutes

What to expect

From the award-winning, best-selling writer: a deeply moving tale of a father and son’s transformative journey in reading – and reliving – Homer’s epic masterpiece.

When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enrol in the undergraduate seminar on the Odyssey that his son Daniel teaches at Bard College, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. For Jay, a retired research scientist who sees the world through a mathematician’s unforgiving eyes, this return to the classroom is his ‘one last chance’ to learn about the great literature he’d neglected in his youth – and, even more, a final opportunity to understand his son.

But through the sometimes-uncomfortable months that follow, as the two men explore Homer’s great work together – first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son’s interpretations, and then during a surprise-filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus’ legendary voyages – it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: for Jay’s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last. As this intricately woven memoir builds to its wrenching climax, Mendelsohn’s narrative comes to echo The Odyssey itself, with its timeless themes of deception and recognition, marriage and children, the pleasures of travel and the meaning of home.

Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a renowned author-scholar’s most revelatory entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.

Genre

Memoirs, Literature: history & criticism

Listen to a sample

‘‘A brilliant family memoir … At its core, it is a funny, loving portrait of a difficult but loving parent: … An Odyssey is a stellar contribution to the genre of memoirs about reading – literary analysis and the personal stories are woven together in a way that feels both artful and natural. A thoughtful book from which non-classicists will learn a great deal about Homer … A funny, loving portrait of a difficult but loving parent: a “much-turning man”’ Emily Wilson, Guardian

‘Combining an in-depth literary analysis with a personal narrative is a bold enterprise. An Odyssey could have been, in the hands of a lesser writer, grandiose. It isn’t. It is so well written that every page makes you feel more alert and alive. The brilliance of An Odyssey lies in the insightfulness of the writing, as Mendelsohn immerses himself in the Odyssey: lives it, breathes it, and presses it for meaning’ Helen Morales, TLS

‘There are a handful of books that have captured the pleasure and romance of this subject. Donna Tartt’s was one … this is another. Homer has a phrase for those who can speak bewitchingly: they have ‘winged words’. Mendelsohn has winged words’ The Times

‘The book enacts a truth that has long been central to Mendelsohn’s writing and teaching, which is that the great works of antiquity remain relevant today. His prose flits seamlessly across intervals and registers, switching from erudite exposition one minute to emotion-filled reminiscence the next. An accomplished, brave book that testifies to what is perhaps The Odyssey’s most abiding message: that intelligence has little value if it isn’t allied to love’ Observer

‘An exquisitely written book about fathers and sons, life and grief’ Mail on Sunday

‘Subtle, profoundly moving … an intricately constructed, multidimensional journey of a father and son and their travails through life and love … A book of shimmering, beautiful, dapple-skilled intelligence’ Adam Nicolson, New York Times Book Review