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Reviews of Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

Clytemnestra

A Novel

by Costanza Casati

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati X
Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    May 2023, 448 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 5, 2024, 450 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

Madeline Miller's Circe meets Cersei Lannister in a stunning debut following Clytemnestra, the most notorious heroine of the ancient world and the events that forged her into the legendary queen.

As for queens, they are either hated or forgotten. She already knows which option suits her best...

You were born to a king, but you marry a tyrant. You stand by helplessly as he sacrifices your child to placate the gods. You watch him wage war on a foreign shore, and you comfort yourself with violent thoughts of your own. Because this was not the first offence against you. This was not the life you ever deserved. And this will not be your undoing. Slowly, you plot.

But when your husband returns in triumph, you become a woman with a choice.

Acceptance or vengeance, infamy follows both. So, you bide your time and force the gods' hands in the game of retribution. For you understood something long ago that the others never did.

If power isn't given to you, you have to take it for yourself.

A blazing novel set in the world of Ancient Greece for fans of Jennifer Saint and Natalie Haynes, this is a thrilling tale of power and prophecies, of hatred, love, and of an unforgettable Queen who fiercely dealt out death to those who wronged her.

A King

Every time a stranger arrives in Sparta, the palace turns into a house of whispers. News travels as fast as sea breeze and the servants make every surface shine like gold. In the late afternoon, when the light is thinning and the air scented, they call Clytemnestra for her cleansing. "An important man will be here for dinner," they twitter.

"A warrior?" asks Clytemnestra, as they walk toward the baths in the darkness of the corridor. Her ankle hurts less every day, and soon she will be able to run and exercise again.

"A king," they say. "Or that is what we heard."

In the bathroom, Helen is already cleaning herself in the painted clay bath, the old wounds on her arms dressed with herbs. Her face is smooth, luminous again. Only one bruise remains, on her left cheek, where the bone was broken. Two more tubs are ready beside her, filled to the brim with water, and behind them an old servant woman is preparing soap. It is made from olives, and it smells rich and fruity.

"Have ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. At the start of the novel, Clytemnestra intervenes in a fight involving her sister, Helen. When told that she must let people win their own battles, she thinks to herself, "What if the loser is your loved one?" How does this mentality guide Clytemnestra throughout her life?
  2. Clytemnestra and the rest of the girls in Sparta are trained to fight as children. How does this warrior mentality guide her throughout the novel? How does this set her apart from other heroines you have read before?
  3. The murder of Clytemnestra's first husband, Tantalus, and her baby is not told from the perspective of Clytemnestra herself. How did you read this change in perspective? What did it add to the narrative?
  4. Clytemnestra and Helen's relationship is...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about Clytemnestra.
You can see the full discussion here.


Aegisthus tells Clytemnestra that "Sometimes it is better to bleed than to feel nothing at all." What's your take on this statement, and do you agree or disagree?
Aegisthus tells Clytemnestra that "Sometimes it is better to bleed than to feel nothing at all," but she's not sure he's correct. What's your take on this statement, and do you agree or disagree? - kimk

Are you familiar with any of the myths that are presented in this novel? Were any told differently than you remember?
Are you familiar with any of the myths that are presented in this novel? Were any told differently than you remember? - kimk

Clytemnestra has been portrayed by history as an evil queen. How does the author question that role?
From everything I’d read before, I thought I ‘knew” Clytemnestra, but the author did a fabulous job of showing her development and her passions and also, how being raised in Sparta’s incredibly harsh norms affected her. ... - Jude Gee

Clytemnestra thinks that queens are "either hated or forgotten." Do you think she's correct about how history treats powerful women?
She was right for the time when she lived. I don’t think that is true anymore. Queen Elizabeth II was much loved by her people and she will not be forgotten. - agnesg

Do you believe Clytemnestra had another option that would have been preferable to marrying Agamemnon?
Unless I missed something, she had no options—except suicide. Running away was doomed, and staying meant marrying Agamemnon. - Jude Gee

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Clytemnestra, as portrayed by Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, et al., was really nothing more than an angry wife of a Greek hero. It's interesting to read more about her, and get the picture of a much more complex and powerful woman (Melissa U). The author looks at Clytemnestra as a mother and sister and how that affected her role as a queen and leader of her people. The story seemed real and believable, and I felt invested in her life and happiness. I was angry and appalled, and thoroughly engaged and entertained until the very end. I highly recommend this book for book groups. Lots of possibilities for great discussions (Christine P)...continued

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Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
Propulsive...richly drawn and lovingly rendered, Casati's Clystemnestra is a brilliant, fierce woman placed, again and again, in untenable circumstances. Readers who are enjoying the current plethora of mythological retellings won't want to miss this absorbing examination of a complicated queen.

Foreword Reviews (starred review)
A great literary achievement that gives voice to characters who, due to their genders, have been vilified and silenced throughout the millennia...Clytemnestra is a literary tour de force—a novel of passion and vengeance set in Ancient Greece.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Casati makes this grim tale feel fresh through vivid imagery and nuanced characterizations. It's sure to please fans of the revisionist genre.

Author Blurb Annie Garthwaite, acclaimed author of Cecily
Clytemnestra redefines the retelling genre with a heroine who, instead of enduring suffering, avenges it. Complex characters, stylish writing and a glimpse into the heart of one of history's most reviled women – Casati's Clytemnestra is a self-determined warrior queen.

Author Blurb Jennifer Saint, bestselling author of Ariadne and Elektra
Crackles with vivid fury, passion and strength. A powerful, thought-provoking portrayal of a fascinating and complicated woman framed in beautiful prose. I loved it.

Author Blurb Liz Michalski, author of Darling Girl
Powerful and sympathetic, Clytemnestra shines a light on Helen of Troy's overshadowed sister. Crafted with page-turning suspense, Casati spins a mesmerizing story of an ambitious warrior queen who must use all her skill to protect herself and those she loves from men who view women not as equals, but as pawns to be sacrificed upon the altars of lust, greed, and fame. An ancient and intriguing tale made fresh for today's 21st century battles.

Reader Reviews

Jan

Stunning Historical Fiction
As a fan of mythology, I went into this book hopeful to find a new favorite... It did not disappoint! This was intelligent, emotional, funny, tragic, and full of fierce women. Clytemnenstra was an incredible book for those interested reading about ...   Read More
Emily Higgins

Such an amazing debut
This book honestly took me by surprise. I will say that I was not expecting to like the book as much as I did because the beginning of the book did start out a little slow. I was also confused about a certain character which made me not like the book...   Read More
Nimra Afzaal

Costanza Castaic was born in Texas in 1995 and attended a classical Liceo in Italy, where she studied Ancient Greek, and Ancient Greek literature, under one of the country's most rigorous academic program. She is a graduate of the prestigious Warwick...   Read More
Cassandra W

A Modern Retelling of a Greek Myth
Costanza Casati’s debut novel is a creative retelling of the life of Clytemnestra, a classical heroine of Greek mythology. She is strong, powerful, fearless, ambitious, and loyal. A woman who is unwilling to be solely defined by the culture and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Clytemnestra

An 1882 oil painting by John Collier showing Clytemnestra, standing in a doorway and holding an axe, after having murdered Agamemnon Constanza Casati's Clytemnestra focuses on the life of the title character, known in mythology as the vengeful wife of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, Greece. In her novel, Casati paints a full and nuanced picture of this much-villainized figure.

Clytemnestra is the daughter of Leda, a princess who becomes a Spartan queen. According to different versions of the myth, while married to the king Tyndareus, Leda is either raped or seduced by the god Zeus, who approaches her while disguised in the form of a swan. She subsequently gives birth to Clytemnestra and her sister Helen. Later in life, Helen is either kidnapped or willingly drawn away from her husband Menelaus by the Trojan prince Paris, leading to the events of the Trojan War. ...

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Read-Alikes

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