Book Review: Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati
Updated: Mar 26
Clytemnestra, by Costanza Casati, is a book that aims to overturn your thoughts about Greek heroes by presenting the story of a woman who has historically been relegated to the shadows of the tales. Written in the tradition of Madeline Miller’s Circe, this debut novel focuses on Clytemnestra, daughter, sister, wife, mother, warrior and queen.
The story begins when Clytemnestra, daughter of Leda and sister to Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, is a princess living in Sparta, a place where women are trained in the martial arts so that they will only submit to the most vicious of men. Although Helen is the beauty, it is Clytemnestra who possesses intelligence, fierceness, and a desire to protect her family at all costs. By the end of the novel, Clytemnestra will have watched her brothers go off to adventure with the Argonauts and witnessed the fall of Troy as the Greeks reclaim her sister Helen from Paris, but the book is about the life of an incredible woman who endures a difficult marriage, suffers immeasurable loss, and exacts revenge upon those who have wronged her.
Clytemnestra features characters and stories from Greek mythology and will delight those who enjoy The Iliad and The Odyssey because it gives readers a chance to revisit these stories through a feminine perspective. There is a family tree located in the front of the book for readers less familiar with the traditional tales. I loved that characters like Leda, Helen, Penelope, Iphigenia, and Clytemnestra all become more than they are in the hands of traditional tale tellers. The book provides a harsh and beautiful look at the lives of women who suffer through great pain to find fleeting moments of love and happiness.
The writing is full of images that stay with you from the Spartan gorge when criminal bodies rot to the bathhouse where Agamemnon meets his fate, but the story truly sings when exploring the complex relationships between the women. Clytemnestra has been vilified in many stories, and forgotten in many others, but this novel celebrates her triumphs and explores her losses, and in doing so, elevates the lives and experiences of all the women whose stories have never been told. I truly enjoyed this book!
You can order it here.
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer and Contributing Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Blue Heron Review, Forget-Me-Not Press, Mermaids Monthly, The Chamber Magazine, and Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She teaches at Central Connecticut State University.