Time is moving on though. Troy is defeated. Helen is back in Sparta with her husband Menelaus. Soldiers and sailors are now returned - all except Odysseus. On Ithaca, Penelope's position has become more precarious than ever after her son left in search of his father. With only a council of elderly men to support her, she needs to maintain peace and independence.
Enter Orestes and Elektra, children of Agamemnon, caught up in their own Greek tragedy - their sister killed by their father, their father killed by their mother, Clytemnestra, who was in turn slain by Orestes in the name of justice. Remorse now seems to have driven Orestes to madness, and Elektra fears what will happen to both of them when word gets out. Their uncle, Menelaus, flush with his victory in Troy, seeks to take over Orestes' throne and make himself king of all the Greeks.
Book One, Ithaca, was told from the omniscient viewpoint of the goddess Hera. Now her role is taken over by Aphrodite, goddess of love with an eye for warriors' rippling muscles or women's softly turned limbs. She's sly and playful, but a fierce advocate of love in all its forms - romantic, familial, or just between friends.
Penelope is a lonely figure, in need of compassion and love. Her maids try their best but Penelope is still queen with the isolation and responsibility that position brings. She has though found a better path through the rules and restrictions laid down by the patriarchal society in which she lives than her fellow queens. As the story evolves Penelope is proving to be just as wily and cunning as her renowned husband. While she manoeuvres men, playing them like chess pieces, and hiding her own involvement, Helen employs a different sort of subterfuge. Subjected to her husband's beatings and repeated rapes, she hides her thoughts and feelings behind the cover of childishness and drunkenness, while biding her time for opportunities for revenge. Clytemnestra, throwing off any subterfuge, and openly taking a lover while her husband is absent was never going to succeed and live happily ever after; the rules of her world would never allow it.
I loved Ithaca with its story of the resilient, resourceful women of Ithaca, left behind to cope without their menfolk, and was just that little worried that House of Odysseus might not live up to it - but it did, possibly even surpassing it.