cover image Clytemnestra


Costanza Casati. Sourcebooks Landmark, $26.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-7282-6823-1

Casati’s impressive debut adds to the growing ranks of novels that reframe the Greek myths from a feminist perspective, with her portrayal of Helen of Troy’s twin sister, Clytemnestra. An ominous scene introduces the Spartan princess as she peers into a ravine rumored to be the repository of the remains of dead infants. Then, Agamemnon kills her husband, king Tantalus of Maeonia, and forces her to marry him. Clytemnestra’s infant by Tantalus is also murdered, presaging the more familiar loss of another child. When the Greek forces led by Agamemnon are stalled, he sacrifices their daughter, Iphigenia, believing that doing so will appease the gods, who will then unleash the winds needed for the army’s ships to sail to Troy so that the abducted Helen can be rescued. That filicide sets the stage for Clytemnestra’s ultimate revenge after the Trojan War ends. Simple metaphors illustrate how Clytemnestra differs from her more famous sibling (“Clytemnestra dances for herself; Helen dances for others”), and the author demonstrates her hero’s agency and strength with such scenes as Clytemnestra killing a wild lynx. Despite the essential plot beats being well-known, Casati makes this grim tale feel fresh through vivid imagery and nuanced characterizations. It’s sure to please fans of the revisionist genre. (Mar.)