Hello, hello, hello!
I bring you a new review for Elektra, Jennifer Saint’s sophomore release that takes a look the Greek tragedy about the woman of the same name. Elektra herself is the daughter of Agamemnon [pronounced: ag-GAH-MEM-non) and Clytemnestra [c(lie)-TEM-nest-stra], the former who is the son of a man called Atreus [AY-tree-us or AH-tree-us, I’ve heard it both ways]. Ever heard of “the Curse of House of Atreus”, or even the myth of Tantalus? Well, its the same family. TW for today’s tale include: murder, attempted r*pe, definitely se*xual assault, adultery, and others. Take care, Beloved.
Upon first glance, this book seems like it should focus on the titular Elektra, and probably retell her story of killing her father in revenge for the crimes committed against her mother.
But it doesn’t.
Instead, Elektra tells a tale about the people around Elektra that molded her into who she is.
Elektra’s mother, Clytemnestra. Queen of Mycenae [MY-seen-nay] by marriage and Spartan Princess by birth. She married Agamemnon and bore him many children. They argued (as people do), and then he committed the ultimate atrocity: murder. Seeing her eldest daughter, Iphigenia [IF-fih-gin-NIGH-uh or IF-fih-gin-KNEE-uh], killed by the hands of her husband, the girl’s own father, really changed Clytemnestra. She was a shell of person with only one goal in mind….revenge.
“Let him come back,” I [Clytemnestra] hissed into the empty sky. “Let him come back so that I can see his eyes as the light drains from them. Let him come back and die at the hands of his bitterest enemy. Let him come back so that I can watch him suffer. And let me make it slow.”Pg. 89, uncorrected ARC
The second part of the story focuses on the prophetess Cassandra. Born into Trojan royalty, Cassandra decided to become a priestess for the god Apollo rather than take the traditional path of a Princess. She was envious of her mother Hecuba who had the gift of prophecy and so one day, she prayed to Apollo particularly hard and wouldn’t you know, he delivered.
But not without a price. THE price that all gross men in Greek mythos want…s*x.
Cassandra says no. She’s a devout follower and priestess. She took vows (similar to those of a Catholic nun or monks, even) and that means she must abstain from certain…worldly pleasures.
Apollo doesn’t like this. Not one bit. So he curses her. She gives her the gift of prophecy, but because she chose to stick her vows, no one will ever believe what she says. Her prophecies are 100% true and everything things she’s 100% off her rocker.
Now, for the namesake of the book. Elektra. Latter born daughter of King Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Depicted as quiet, soft spoken, and the favorite of her father.
She grows up seeing her mother change right before her eyes after the death of her big sister and (as we all would) vows revenge against the culprit…until she learns that it’s dear old Dad to blame.
As time goes on and Agamemnon never returns home, Elektra sees her mother take another lover and eventually give birth to a couple half siblings.
And then Agamemnon comes home. With his spoils of war, the priestess Cassandra and their children in tow. Obviously this all but kills Clytemnestra who (along with her new beau) decide to actually kill Agamemnon and Cassandra.
Clytemnestra has finally avenged the wrongful death of her daughter, Iphigenia. But she should have been watching the rest of her kids a bit closer because Elektra’s grown up into an adult, and she and her missing-come-home brother hatch a plan to kill Mommie Dearest & Aegisthus [uh-GEES-this or AY-gees-this] (the new lover/step-dad).
Jennifer Saint has revisited a well know Greek myth with figures we all know. Somehow, though the actual story takes place over MANY years (like 10-15, at least), Saint’s Elektra manages to pass the time well in her writing without being jarring for the reader.
I really am a huge myth nerd, so much so that I have a minor in Classics from university. Reading this familiar story through a fresh lens, and seeing the murderous sacrifice of Iphigenia through the eyes of her mother really did make me take a new look at this story.
Due to a lifelong fascination with Ancient Greek mythology, Jennifer Saint studied Classical Studies at King’s College, London. She spent the next thirteen years as an English teacher, sharing a love of literature and creative writing with her students. Elektra is her second novel and is set for release on May 3rd (US) by Flatiron Publishing, a division of Macmillan. For more info on Ms. Saint and what she’s up to, check out her website.
I’d also like to thank Flatiron Publishing for providing me with my ARC to read and review. If you to purchase your own copy of Elektra, you can use my affiliate link for Bookshop, or check out any of your favorite retailers.