Jennifer Saint follows her debut novel Ariadne with an equally compelling re-telling of the story of Elektra, her family and of course the famous Helen.
it is not easy to recreate a format that was so successful for your first novel and to then replicate it as equally if not better than before – but that is what Jennifer Saint has done with Elektra. It is a story about a family curse, violence and death that recounts the story of the siege of Troy as seen through the eyes of three women: Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra – but interestingly enough not from a woman who helped in some way to bring about the Trojan War, Helen.
This is a really gritty read, every image of death and murder that comes through is vividly described – as well as the depth in which the author goes into detail about the emotions that the characters go through (in particular the effects of grief and isolation) makes it seem as though while it is impossible to completely like them, with the female characters you get a real sense of why they felt that they had to do what they did. I love the way in which Jennifer Saint is able to give them all such distinct voices – from the quietness of Cassandra’s voice, to the bitter grief that rages through Clytemnestra whose grief for her child leads to a terrible consequences and Elektra’s passion and love for her father that leads to even more tragedy. The book has been exquisitely structured, giving each a a fair share of focus that keeps the read thoroughly engrossed.
As with all Greek mythology there is a real sense of drama and theatricality, but Jennifer Saint tones it down to allow the character’s thoughts and stories to take centre stage. But as this story makes very clear – each of their stories are tragic in many different ways: Clytemnestra who murders her husband Agamemnon not only out of grief and anger but also to prevent her two surviving daughters- one of whom is Elektra- from the same fate as her daughter Iphigeneia. Sadly, this in turn leads to Elektra’s feelings love and admiration for her father, entwined with her increasing anger towards her mother who is seemingly lost in her grief takes her down a path that leads to no way back. Meanwhile, Cassandra’s while blessed with the gift of foresight has also been cursed by Apollo to have nobody believe a word that she says – consequently she knew she could have prevented the events that led to the Trojan War but was completely helpless. You are able to feel a sense of compassion for each of the characters at different points in the story – but essentially it is a cautionary tale that all actions have consequences.
While the Trojan War and the events that lead up to it traditionally focuses on the men caught up in it all, Elektra reveals just how much the men’s actions impacted on these three central characters lives and turned them upside down. They are victims in their own way, yet at the same time there is plenty of evidence of their courage and strength when faced with adverse conditions.
Overall, Elektra is a gripping and compelling read that I would thoroughly recommend – no matter how much you know about the tale of the Trojan War.
By Emma Clarendon
Elektra is available to buy now.