The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?
Another absorbing and vivid retelling of ancient Greek myth, Jennifer Saint’s Elektra narrows in on the Trojan War and tells the ill-fated story of Clytemnestra and her tumultuous marriage to Agamemnon, as well as the tale of their daughter Elektra. Across the sea in Troy, we meet a young Cassandra, who is blessed with foresight but is cursed in that no one believes her premonitions.
When Elektra is a young girl, her father Agamemnon leads an army across the ocean to wage war against Troy. Her mother, Clytemnestra, seethes with rage for ten years because of what Agamemnon was willing to sacrifice to ensure safe passage across the seas. And over in Troy, Cassandra can foresee Troy’s demise but is powerless to stop it. Written in first person, Jennifer Saint’s Elektra follows these three women as they navigate this extended but turbulent era of history.
After reading the fantastic Ariadne last year, I was excited to devour this one. Jennifer crafts these mythical stories with great imagination — bringing to life long-known legends and tales of iconic Greek figures.
“At first, Agamemnon was a generous, joyful ruler of Mycenae, his project of uniting all the Greeks a long-held ambition that he was grateful to be realising. But, slowly, peevishness began to settle over him and I saw him fretting from time to time.”
Jennifer Saint’s writing is always rich and well-developed, bringing fierce women to life with emotion and vitality. Clytemnestra, in particular, felt the most visceral and animated, as we can easily relate to her feelings of anger and betrayal. She certainly felt the most candid as she played the long game — she waited ten years for Agamemnon to return so she can carry out her long-planned murder.
Pacing maintains throughout the novel, and Cassandra’s voice ads depth to the story because she is situated on the opposite side of the story. Jennifer Saint is bold in her depiction of these women — their narration is concise and observant, and they each provide an interesting element to the tale. Whilst I didn’t connect with Elektra as much as the other women – not until the end of the novel anyway — I still appreciated her perspective of the saga. She’s certainly the most loyal of the three women.
From memory, Jennifer’s previous release Ariadne featured a fair bit of info dumping in the book, but Elektra did not. Jennifer wove in information with more consideration, which will not go unappreciated by readers.
“I bathed her body alone. The cloths were soft, the water warm. I pulled away the ruined dress, her wedding dress. I kissed her clean skin. When she was small, she would shriek with laughter when I buried my face in the plump folds of her arms, the dimpled knees.”
Admittedly, it initially feels like quite the task trying to grasp the characters and settings. I was somewhat familiar with these Greek figures, particularly Clytemnestra, and yet I was struggling in the beginning to confirm her connection with Cassandra, and the backstory of her sister Helen and her marriage to Agamemnon.
“She was lying to herself; I could see it. She had made a convincing case, but she was wrong. I opened my mouth to tell her so, but I looked at Paris’ face again before I spoke.”
Documenting a period of history worth remembering, Elektra is emotion-laden and recommended for readers of historical sagas, and fans of Greek mythology. Readership skews female, 25+
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Hachette Book Publishers Australia