Elektra by Jennifer Saint


There are an awful lot of books retelling Greek myths and legends from the viewpoints of the women involved around at the moment.  This is a very good one: I really enjoyed it.  The title’s a bit of a misnomer, though.   The story’s told, in different sections, from the viewpoints of Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra, and Elektra has the smallest role of the three.

There are various different versions of the stories involving the three women.  In this book, Clytemnestra and Agamemnon are fairly happy together until he sacrifices their daughter Iphigenia at the beginning of the Trojan War.  She vows vengeance, and begins an affair with his cousin Aegisthus.

Cassandra’s story is familiar.  Abba even sang a song about her!  In this book, she doesn’t give Apollo any false promises in return for the gift of prophecy: he forces it on her, along with the curse of never being believed.  Ajax the Lesser isn’t named as her rapist, but we’re told that she’s raped by a Greek soldier in the Temple of Athena, and then taken as a concubine by Agamemnon.  In some versions of events, she bears him twin sons, but there are no children in this.  We see Clytemnestra murder her, after murdering Agamemnon, but it’s strongly suggested that she was ready to kill herself.

The version of the story of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra’s two youngest children here is the one in which their daughter Elektra sends her young brother Orestes away, fearing for his safety, after their father’s murder, and then makes her own choice to marry a farmer.  It’s still Clytemnestra who dominates the book, though: her sections of it somehow come across more strongly than Elektra’s do.

Years later, Orestes returns and, with Elektra at his side, kills first Aegisthus and then Clytemnestra.  They then have to free themselves of the pursuing Erinyes – the Furies, whom I call the Eumenides because that’s what they’re called in the reference to them in The Thorn Birds! – but, that done, both Orestes and Elektra live in peace.

It’s a book that’s very easy to read despite the complexities and sometimes bloodthirstiness of the plot.  And it’s wonderful to see these age-old myths and legends back in the realms of popular culture again.  A very good book, and highly recommended.

One thought on “Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Hello! Please let me know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.