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Publisher's Summary

From award-winning memoirist and critic, and best-selling author of The Lost: a deeply moving tale of a father and son's transformative journey in reading - and reliving - Homer's epic masterpiece.

When 81-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son 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 the great literature he'd neglected in his youth - and, even more, a final opportunity to more fully understand his son, a writer and classicist. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that 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's famous voyages - it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: 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 triumphant entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.

©2017 Daniel Mendelsohn (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Mendelsohn is an artful storyteller whose skills are equal to the task of weaving Homer's poem into his own life. In this insightful, tender book, Mendelsohn gracefully marries literary criticism and memoir to describe an intellectual and personal journey that becomes one of profound discovery for both [father and son]. Most impressive are his transitions from scholarly consideration of The Odyssey to intimate stories of his family life, as when the class discussion flows effortlessly into a magical moment, witnessing [his father] Jay as he offers a heartbreakingly beautiful tribute to his wife.... [There are] many wise lessons to be gleaned from this lovely book." (Harvey Freedenberg, BookPage)
"Beguiling...in this memoir, Mendelsohn recounts a freshman class on the Odyssey he taught at Bard College with his father, an 81-year-old computer scientist, sitting in. ...Mendelsohn gradually unwraps layers of timeless meaning in the ancient Greek poem; Homeric heroes offer resonant psychological parallels to a modern family. Mendelsohn weaves trenchant literary analysis and family history into a luminous whole. A gem." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about An Odyssey

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Inspiring

I saw an interview with Daniel Mendelsohn about his new book “An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic” and thought it sounded intriguing. This book is a memoir, but in many ways, it is three stories intertwined. The author provided a summary of “The Odyssey”, along with his account of the class he teaches at Bard College and the relationship with his father and how he and his father interacted with the students when his father decided to audit the class.

The book is well written but meanders a bit. Jay Mendelsohn is a retired research scientist and mathematician. At age 82 he decided to monitor his son’s class about “The Odyssey”. He challenged his son throughout the class. At the end of course, Daniel takes Jay on an Odyssey cruise on the Mediterranean. I found the interaction between Daniel, Jay and the class most interesting. Overall, this is a most delightful book. If you are looking for a good summer read, this might be your choice.

The book is ten hours and thirty-seven minutes. Bronson Pinchot does a good job narrating the book. Pinchot is an actor and an Audie Award winning narrator. This is my first experience with the author and narrator.

5 people found this helpful

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A voyage for all of us

This is an astounding and moving book. Part psychological meditation on identity, part linguistic and mythological explication, having Mendelsohn as a guide is having the best teacher you could imagine. His compassion, insight and love of both his father and his students--as well as his subject--were spot on. I was sorry to reach the end.

3 people found this helpful

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Sooo lovely

On so many levels. Yayy!!this book needs to be LISTENED to. Not read. Good for you.

2 people found this helpful

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A Gift of a Memoir

This book is one of those where I felt completely bereft when it was finished. I have loved listening to this multi faceted story. Every level interconnects from what we learn about ancient languages to the epic itself, about a teacher and students, and most of all, about fathers and sons. Beautifully crafted. I am left with so many things to think about. Thank you, Daniel Mendelssohn.

2 people found this helpful

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Seems written with the READER in mind. Perfect

I believe this was written FOR ME, and I believe you will feel the same. Not only is it about the teaching college freshmen the story of the Odyssey, it is about the authors' discovery of the universality of family strife and love. It is cunningly written in the same ring composition that Homer uses to write The Odyssey. The whole book is a circle, even the similarities between his father, Jay, himself, even his wife and other relatives. We don't learn much about Dan's sons, but I am sure he could write circles around them too!! I love the slow reveals, the apparent diversions and easy return to the story at hand. There are stories within stories, AND sentences within sentences. It's easily readable. It's almost like a Proem itself. Read this book before taking the class.... **everything** is in it and prepares your reading mind to understand it.

For me, it's a lesson in fiction composition, narration, and structure. I love the language lessons, the breakdown As for the Odyssey, I feel like I gathered enough facts to survive a trivia game if some basic facts of the Odyssey were included. LOL.

At any rate, it's worth your time. I purchased the Kindle edition just to keep up with the words. You can read it at the surface or you can dissect it and discover its application to your own life.

5 people found this helpful

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This book fulfilled

This book is was a beautiful story, memoir, and amazingly educational explanation of the Odyssey. An escape into tales, and at the same time a grounding salve, a, compelling description of the most powerful aspects of being family menders, social creatures, and beings with the desire to understand and impart what we’ve come to understand.

1 person found this helpful

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History woven into a nice tribute to a father

I enjoyed this book. It was well written and the narration was fabulous. It did get tedious at one or two points when the college professor couldn't help but lecture on and on. However, if you stuck with it, he wove the tale of Odysseus, his father Laertes, and his son, Telemachus, into his own life, where his dad played a starring role. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Dr. Mendelsohn's father, who enrolled in his son's seminar on the Odyssey. The voice of the authors' parents were so well rendered and so colorful it kept me going through the more pedantic passages.

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Pretty nice

Interesting book, good insight on oddyssey class and father-son relationship.

But the narrator was in my opinion irritating and pathetic. He read it like some high school drama class...

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Looking for dad

College professor Daniel Mendelsohn invites his dad to join the course that he's teaching on Homer’s The Odyssey, an ancient epic about a son looking for his missing father. They first go over the story in class and then explore its origins by taking a trip together to Greece. Through The Odyssey, the author gets to know his father better and begins to see him in a new light. They've had a somewhat distant relationship in the past and this effort shared late in life brings them closer together. The way that Mendelsohn weaves the epic with his own experiences is both clever and moving at times.

There is much to like in this book. His analysis of Homer's work inspired me to listen to The Odyssey immediately afterwards. Mendelsohn deserves credit for that. His conversation with his students in class had me reminiscing about my days in college. However, although I feel like the author succeeds in a number of ways, I did find his writing a bit sappy and sentimental. I enjoyed this aspect of the book less.

Actor Bronson Pinchot (from the 80s series 'Perfect Strangers', among other works) is a good narrator and he accurately communicates the emotional quality of the book, in my opinion.

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Incredible

Poignant, moving, erudite, thought-provoking. An absolutely wonderful book. If you are not in tears at the end of the book then you have a heart of stone. Great performance as well.