Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati is an ambitious debut that seizes the reins of the Greek epic and steers it to uncharted territories, from the perspective of one of the most notorious villainesses of ancient times.
The book’s strongest suit is its unflinching portrayal of Clytemnestra as a woman scorned, a grieving mother, and a queen full of righteous fury. Casati doesn’t shy away from painting a vivid portrait of her protagonist. From the moment we meet Clytemnestra as a woman wronged, trapped in a marriage with a tyrant, we are thrust into a world where the personal and political are intimately intertwined. The depiction of Agamemnon, indeed, leaves no doubts about his tyrannical tendencies, reinforcing Clytemnestra’s reasons for vengeance. This is not a black-and-white world but one painted in strokes of moral ambiguity, where right and wrong lose their absolute meanings.
Casati’s narrative style is equally captivating. With a keen understanding of the classical text, the author subtly weaves the ancient tale with a contemporary touch, resulting in a fresh, engaging narrative. This novel feels authentic to the era it depicts, yet it never loses sight of its modern audience.
The depiction of the Trojan War as a prolonged affair, while historically accurate, adds to the suspense and tension in the novel. It allows the reader to experience, along with Clytemnestra, the uncertainty and dread of waiting for news from a distant battlefield.
However, Clytemnestra might not leave a lasting impression on all readers. It is, after all, a retelling of an ancient Greek story, and some may find the plot familiar. Yet, it is in this familiarity that Casati finds her strength. She breathes new life into Clytemnestra, making her a character that feels both ancient and modern, familiar and foreign.
Despite some minor shortcomings, Clytemnestra is a compelling read for anyone interested in classical literature, powerful female characters, or simply a well-told tale of love, hatred, and vengeance. It’s a testament to the author’s skill and imagination that she can take a story as well-known as the Iliad and transform it into something that feels both timeless and new.
A solid 4/5 stars, Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati is a promising debut that leaves you eagerly anticipating what this author will produce next.
Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark for providing an e-Arc of Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati for my review.
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