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Elektra by Jennifer Saint

I really loved Saint's book Ariadne, and was happy to find two more books by her. Totally suitable since I have been on a two month trip with our camper van to Montenegro, Albania and Greece. Most of the time we spent in Greece, and I was eager to read something connected to the country. Even if it was from mythology. I find its mythology so interesting and love reading books about them.

The protagonists

I don't really know why Jennifer Saint named the book Elektra since it is the story of three women; Clytemnestra (wife of Agamemnon), Cassandra (priestess daughter of Priam, king of Troy) and Elektra (daughter of C and A). We follow them as the war of Troy is about to start, and until the end ten years later.

Clytemnestra, devastated when Agamemnon sacrifices their eldest daughter Iphigenia to the gods, to get a fair wind so they could sail to Troy. During the war she takes care of state affairs in Mycenae, but revenge is what keeps her alive. She intends to kill her husband when he returns home.

"I rolled my eyes. Odysseus was here as one of Helen's suitors just like the rest of them, but of course nothing that man did was as it seemed." (Clytemnestra)

Cassandra, one of king Priam's and queen Hecuba's daughters. She became a priestess and seer, but was cursed by Apollo when she refused his advances. The curse was to never be believed when she speaks of the future. She tried to prevent Paris from playing a role in Troy, and to tell the king that Troy would fall.

"Beauty and love were gifts, perhaps - even if I knew that Helen's beauty was a terrible thing, and incitement to war and chaos." (Cassandra)

Elektra, the youngest daughter of the king and queen of Mycenae. She is horrified by the death of her sister, but still holds a love for her father. Her relationship with her mother is troubled.

"I don't think I could put one foot in front of the other if it wasn't for my hatred. It fuels me, it drives me forward, it roars inside me, obliterating anything else that ever was or could be." (Elektra)

The background

I did not take to Elektra at all, and found the other two women more interesting as characters. They seemed to have more space in the book as well. One has to understand that Elektra was only five (I think) years old when her sister died. After the sacrifice, her mother had no love to give her other children, due to her grief for Iphigenia.

Maybe that is why Elektra directed all her love for her absent father. He was not the best of parents, but she had had a special relationship with him while he still was at home. She grows up under the dreary atmosphere of the palace. Furthermore, her mother takes Aegisthus as a lover. Agamemnon killed his father so no less feelings of revenge here. As Elektra grows up, she decides to take her destiny in her own hands, and to get away from her mother.

Cassandra's story is connected to the Trojan war, and her efforts to tell her father the outcome of the war. No-one listens to her, however hard she tries to tell them what she knows. She spends her time in the temple of Apollon, but he has deserted her as well. Through her we see the war of Troy.

The outcome

I am sure you all know the story, and I will not reveal which way Jennifer Saint takes her characters. I was not so enthralled by this novel as of Ariadne. I found the character of Elektra rather uninteresting. Clytemnestra is the one that I thought saved the book, with her story when she first met Agamemnon, their marriage, his departure for Troy and return. She has character, takes control of her life and follow up on her decisions. Although terrible ones. Cassandra's tale was also interesting, far away from the other two women, and a totally different life from theirs. Her fight to be believed, and tragedy when she was not. The curse of Apollo that affected her life in such a hard way. She is full of character, independence and a will to try everything she can against all odds.

It was nevertheless a suitable book to read since we also visited Mycenae. And, what a wonderful cover.

For those interested in our visits to archeological sites in Greece, I have a few newsletters about the trip. You find them under The Content Reader Newsletter.

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