Elektra: A Novel of the House of Atreus

Elektra by: Jennifer Saint
Published on: May 3, 2022
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Number of Pages: 289

Description

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them, and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

Review

The House of Atreus carried a curse. A particularly gruesome one, even by the standards of divine torment.

Three women. Three different stories. In Elektra, the author weaves the stories of Clytemnestra, Cassandra, and Elektra together, allowing us to witness events during the Trojan War from their perspective. Life is rarely kind to the women in Greek tragedies as they live in fear of either the whims of the gods or of men.

When I read Ariadne, the previous book by the author, I would grow frustrated with the main character for not taking more control over her own life. Looking back, I was probably harsher on her than I should have been. But I cannot say the same for the women in Elektra. Unlike Ariadne who I wished took more control, the women in Elektra took decisive actions that forever changed the course of their story. But as much as I appreciate how they took more initiative, it is difficult, if not impossible, to ignore how some of those choices are just simply flawed and come with terrible consequences.

Every word I speak is unwelcome.

– Cassandra

In thinking about the three women, I hate to lump Cassandra together with Clytemnestra and Elektra. Cassandra is much more sympathetic and I found myself growing frustrated on her behalf. Seeing the future, but never believed. And if someone did believe her, the future remain unchanged due to that individuals own obstinance. My only concern regarding her story is that I couldn’t make sense of why everyone thought she was mad or disturbed. Or perhaps it is more appropriate to say I never could figure out why she couldn’t provide a reasonable voice to what she was seeing. You don’t have to know everything that will occur in the future in order to say “This small thing is what I saw.”

But for Clytemnestra and Elektra… Where does one even start. The author does an excellent job of showing all the steps that led to the path this mother and daughter took and to the consequences that you know are inevitable. But still…Elektra. Her singular focus on a father she barely knew. Her fixation and devotion to the idea of a man that clearly did not exist, I could never understand. But what struck me at times was how little regard she had for women experiencing cruelty at the hands of the gods and men. Her lack of empathy and sympathy shows how small her emotional range is and I can’t help but wonder if she is a caricature of herself and not fleshed out or if it is the best way to explain what is potentially a mental disorder. It is clear that Clytemnestra ignored her, which added to Elektra’s problems, but I find that Elektra should have been able to reach some reasonable conclusions to past events that she willfully chose to ignore.

The book evokes so many thoughts and emotions that I never could pin one thought down in regards to the characters. I would feel so incredibly sad for Clytemnestra and then several pages later so frustrated with her. The women are complex and it shows by their decisions and with the rationale and motives behind those decisions. In the end, the stories of each of the women and the build up of all the pieces kept me thoroughly engaged. Often I found myself reading longer than I had originally planned.

Rating: 4 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Still Life – Book Review

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1 by: Louise Penny
Published on: September 30, 2008

“Three Pines wasn’t on any tourist map, being too far off any main or even secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually found their way back.”

My first Louise Penny book! I’ve read so many wonderfully written reviews on a few of her books that it was becoming difficult not to add her books to my list, especially since I enjoy detective stories/police procedurals.

Still Life is set in the small village of Three Pines, Quebec Canada. And when a retired teacher who also enjoys painting is found dead it sends shock waves throughout the close-knit community. To help solve the mystery of her death, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in and begin their investigation.

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The Post Script Murders – Book Review

Harbinder Kaur #2 by: Elly Griffiths
Narrated by: Nina Wadia
Published on: March 2, 2021

Before picking up The Postscript Murders, I had come to the conclusion that it was just not practical or possible for some of the main elements from The Stranger Diaries to carry over. This was mostly true with the story within a story format since the short story, The Stranger, was very unique to Clare, the first book’s main character. The short story not only introduced the gothic atmosphere, but the fictional author as well, both of which had a distinct presence throughout the book.

I mention this in hopes that no one goes in and is immediately disappointed. The Postscript Murders is a terrific murder mystery, but it does not carry over several elements that made The Stranger Diaries unique and memorable. It can be jarring. Once or twice, I thought to myself that it almost felt as if it were written by a different author, or was part of a different series.

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The Book of Cold Cases – Book Review

The Book of Cold Cases by: Simone St. James
Published on: March 15, 2022

“The wind groaned in the eaves. The handprint faded. The figure moved back into the darkness. And the house was still once more.”

Shea is a divorced, 29-year old receptionist at a medical office. Outside of work she has is obsessed with true crime and runs a blog called The Book of Cold Cases that has quite a bit of followers. But her blog is also therapeutic for her as it helps Shea work through a traumatic experience that occurred when she was a child. While at work one day, Beth Greer, a woman who was acquitted for multiple counts of murder back in the 70’s, walks into the office. Everyone believes Beth got away with murder and Beth’s attitude during the trial made her infamous. But Beth and the events fascinate Shea and she can’t help herself – Shea asks if she can interview Beth and get her side of the story.

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Peach Spring Blossom – Book Review

Peach Spring Blossom by: Melissa Fu
Published on: March 15, 2022

“To know a story is to stroke the silken surfaces of loss, to feel the weight of beauty in his hands. To know a story is to carry it always, etched in his bones, even if dormat for decades.”

Every so often a book becomes more than just a book. This is one of those times. The story was mesmerizing and if I’m honest there were occasions it left me an emotional wreck. I was completely captivated from the first two sentences. But it wasn’t necessarily always from the story, although it was rather good. But instead, it was gradual as I began to understand its message and meaning.

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The Echo Wife – Book Review

The Echo Wife by: Stuart TurtonSarah Gailey
Published on: February 16, 2021

“All I wanted to do is sting, sting, sting until he fell down swollen and dead.”- Evelyn

If you have ever spent 8 1/2 hours locked in a car ride with a person you absolutely do not like and had to listen to them go on and on about their problems and how every single one of them is someone else’s fault, then you might understand how I felt listening to this audio book. The Echo Wife is told in first person and listening to Evelyn with her barely controlled rage complain about how the entire world has been absolutely awful to her made me almost quit at 15%, 20%, 30%….. I was determined to get through the book and so I agreed with myself to only listen to Evelyn for 30 minutes at a time. Surely that was doable. It wasn’t. 30 minutes slowly dwindled to 10-15 minutes at a time. Sigh.

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The Devil and the Dark Water – Book Review

The Devil and the Dark Water by: Stuart Turton
Published on: October 6, 2020

Surviving isn’t winning. It is what you do when you’ve lost.

The Devil and the Dark Water is a paranormal mystery inspired by the Batavia shipwreck of 1628. The true story of the Batavia is horrific. A shipwreck by itself would be terrifying, but it takes a further insidious and sinister turn even after the survivors find their way to a nearby island. If you ever happen to read the true account, you might actually think it is a bad plot of a horror novel, except in this case it happens to be true. Drawing on this, the author uses people/roles, names, and places to create his story. And while there are similarities The Devil and the Dark Water is not a retelling or accounting of the actual shipwreck, but is its own unique story.

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The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea – Book Review

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Seat by: Axie Oh
Published on: February 22, 2022

“After all, not all storytellers are grandmothers, but all grandmothers are storytellers”

An enchanting tale where a girl is whisked into the Spirit Realm. Once there she must find a way to awaken the Sea God in time for her to return to the Mortal Realm.

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The Black Orchid Girls – Book Review

The Black Orchid Girls by: Carolyn Arnold
Published on: February 10, 2022

Black Orchid Girls is the 4th book in the Detective Amanda Steele series that gives a solid story, but felt a little bland.

Early one morning a girl is found murdered in the Leesylvania State Park and Detective Amanda Steele and her partner Detective Trent Stenson are called in to investigate. The girl turns out to be a local college student, Chloe Sumner, with a heart for the environment and was frequently known to go to the park for the Mystery snail. Soon the detectives are given plenty of leads to begin their investigation, which include boyfriends, roommates, and rivals just to name a few.

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Ariadne – Book Review

Ariadne by: Jennifer Saint
Published on: May 4, 2021

“I am Ariadne, princess of Crete, though my story takes us a long way from the rocky shores of my home.”

Description

Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.

When Theseus, the Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending? And what of Phaedra, the beloved younger sister she leaves behind?

Hypnotic, propulsive, and utterly transporting, Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne forges a new epic, one that puts the forgotten women of Greek mythology back at the heart of the story, as they strive for a better world.

Review

I cannot help but feel for Ariadne. Daughter to King Midas, a contemptable human who enjoys human sacrifice, and Pasiphae, a woman who never recovered from a curse placed upon her by Poseidon. As the daughter of a powerful man, she has few options available to her. Her only solace is her younger sister Phaedra. But when the day comes that Ariadne and Phaedra find a way to escape, this too comes with lies and abandonment.

While I empathize with Ariadne and applaud her for the courageous decisions she did make, she could also be frustrating. Far too often she was content in her own naivety and seemed afraid to face unpleasant truths. An example, is in her relationship with her sister whom she had been parted from. Why didn’t she visit her sister? Why didn’t she ask who her sister had married? Wasn’t she curious, even a little? As much as she endured or had seen, she should have known to be more actively engaged in her own life. After all, it is her life and if she doesn’t engage who else will?

Ariadne tells not only the life story of its heroine, but explores the darker sides of the gods. Their thirst for revenge, their need for adoration. Their hubris. Little thought or care is given to how their choices and curses affect others. Women get the brunt of their wrath, often the object of displaced anger. Instead of inflicting their rage and disdain on the one who actually insulted them, the gods instead inflict the pain and suffering onto those within their circle.

While the story was well written, it was also a little depressing. There is a little bit of hopefulness in the Epilogue, but not enough to overcome the entirety of the story that I had just finished reading. I both listened to this on audio and read the book. Typically, I love audio books more, but not this one and I do not recommend it. The voice and emotions portrayed felt wrong. Every time I began the audio I couldn’t wait for the story to end. Picking up the book instead, breathed new life into the story for me.