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Costanza Casati

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Clytemnestra (2023) 381 eksemplarer

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*** Warning for anyone reading this on the Goodreads app which doesn't honour spoilers - if you don't already know the Greek myth on which this is based, there are spoilers. Be advised also that elements would warrant content warnings if this were independently rather than traditionally published. ***

I've been reading various novels based on Greek mythology and had been hoping to obtain a copy of this one since hearing about it pre-publication. I was lucky enough to find one in nearly new condition from an online book dealer. The hardback itself is beautifully produced, including the dustjacket and end papers.

I'm pleased to find that the writing holds up too. The first person present tense narration, mostly by Clytemnestra, moves along with good pace. The interesting and engaging first section deals with her childhood in Sparta. She is close to her siblings, especially Helen (who goes on to become known as Helen of Troy) and one of her twin brothers, Castor. The other brother, Polydeuces, is very close to Helen. The portrayal of Helen as an insecure child, disliked by their father, is an interesting one - the take on this being that, where someone's father was unknown, the story was put about that one of the gods had fathered them. Leda had had an affair with someone who later left, and the rumour-mill has it that he was Helen's father. Clytemnestra's attempt to protect her sister by shielding her from this eventually causes a rift in their closeness.

The author has made the choice to not portray the gods as characters. So people believe in them - or lose their faith in the face of suffering - but their significance in the story lies in what people do in their names.

Part of the story deals with same-sex relationships, which are handled sensitively, with one of the three younger sisters having to negotiate the pitfalls of having such a relationship, something that would incur severe punishment if it came to their father's attention. Although Clytemnestra has a fairly loving family, mainly because of her mother and siblings, and is her father's favourite, the regime for Spartan children is a savage one. They are brought up to fight other children and can be injured and even killed, while expected to put up a tough front and suppress their feelings.

Clytemnestra finds love with the king of a far-off country, but tragedy strikes when her father does a deal with the murderous brothers, Agamemnon and Menelaus. Although I knew the story already, the sequence when this comes to a head is truly shocking as is the later sacrifice of her eldest daughter by Agamemnon. Clytemnestra's emotions on both occasions are believable as is the beyond-awful situation where she is forced to marry the murderer of her husband and child. She will never submit, something Agamemnon craves as he loves to beat down and destroy resistance, and there are some disturbing mentions throughout the story of how he beats and rapes her early in their marriage. After realising she is pregnant, she decides to play a long game for the sake of her child and subsequent children, although she never gives up her aim of one day killing him.

There are a number of jump cuts between different points in the history, the longest being fifteen years to the point where the Trojan War is about to commence. The portrayal of Aegisthus as a damaged man is an interesting interpretation, very different to that by some other novelists (for example Colm Toibin's 'House of Names') There are a couple of scenes near the end where the viewpoint changes to another character. I can see why the author did that, to portray events that happen when Clytemnestra is not present, but it still jars. The writing is also a little clunky in places. But I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would rate it overall at 4 stars.
… (mere)
kitsune_reader | 17 andre anmeldelser | Nov 23, 2023 |
Fantastic! Fierce and inventive and powerful... Will eagerly read Casati's next book.
decaturmamaof2 | 17 andre anmeldelser | Nov 22, 2023 |
The ancient mythological stories are littered with heroes who go on quests, defy the Gods, battle bravely through many trials and avenge their dead. But what about the women? The vain woman who unleashes plague upon humanity through curiosity. The countless rape victims, abused by Gods and punished by vengeful Goddess. Unfaithful wives. But is that their only story? Who avenges them when they are wronged? Clytemnestra is the story that turns the passive female role on its head. Known through history as the proud wife of Agamemnon, who betrays and murders her husband as he returns home the conquering hero from Troy. Less well known is that Agamemnon murdered Clytemnestra's first husband and child and raped his brokenhearted wife. Who later murdered their own child as a human sacrifice. All for a fair wind to sail to Troy. Clytemnestra is not the victim of her own story. She is a Spartan Queen, who ably ruled her lands while her husband was away for ten years. Who refused to become his victim ever again. Who avenged her own dead. This book is a fascinating look at a woman who has as brave and ferocious as any of her male counterparts. Who didn't look to the Gods for salvation and who didn't wither away in the face of horrific pain. She blazed her own path and through patience, bravey and guile, avenged her own wrongs.… (mere)
queencersei | 17 andre anmeldelser | Sep 29, 2023 |


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