Elektra follows in the path of Ariadne and retells an Ancient Greek myth. This time the focus is on the battle of Troy and the women that it affected – some you may have heard of but others get their voice for the first time.
by Jennifer Saint
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?
Note: I was gifted an advanced reading copy of Elektra. Thank you Headline Publishing Group!
I have been into Greek myths ever since I was a little girl. I used to have this illustrated version for children and I loved it. I particularly remember Hermes, he was so cute. But this love of myths has always stuck around. As a teenager, I read The Moon Riders by Theresa Tomlinson on repeat. Like a billion times. Then, as an adult, I moved on to Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe as well as The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. So, this is all to say – I like Greek myths.
Elektra is another retelling of the origin of the Trojan War, this time told from the perspective of three women: Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra. At first glance, these women don’t seem connected in an obvious way (except Elektra being Clytemnestra’s daughter) but Saint does a great job of weaving the three threads together. Don’t worry, I won’t rehash the story of Troy for you because a) you probably already know it and b) the author does a much better version of it than I could.
I feel like this retelling is quite faithful to the original but before we go on, let me qualify that a bit. I am not an expert in Classics (despite my listed reading above) so I’m sure that plenty of people could tell me that I’m wrong. What I mean by this, is that the story is told in a way that’s focused on the events and the character’s reactions to them. It doesn’t go off on a flight of fancy or have pages of elaborate descriptions. That’s not a criticism, it’s just written in a different way to other retellings (i.e. Miller’s books make you want to rip your heart out for the characters).
What I enjoyed about this retelling was the focus on the silenced voices of women, both in the sense that some of these characters you may not know much about (I didn’t) and in the sense of women having to be silent to survive. The theme that connects these three characters is rage. They each have been dealt terrible hands and it is their fury that propels the story forward.
The story is written from a split perspective and I personally found Clytemnestra most interesting. She is strong and vulnerable at the same time. And also maybe not the best judge of character. (Marries a man from a family who historically murders their kids. Is surprised when her kid gets murdered. I don’t know what to tell you, C.)
For me, this is another, very welcome addition to the feminist Greek myth retelling canon and I will be interested to read more from the author in the future.