Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati Review

Hello Readers,

I’m not saying I agree with all of Clytemnestra’s life choices…But if my husband lied to me and sacrificed our daughter to a God while telling me he was taking her to meet her new husband. I think I would have spent 10 years plotting his death too.
I think Clytemnestra can be accredited as being one of first villainesses in literature. Unlike medusa and the other gorgons, the vengeful goddess, Clytemnestra is just a vengeful human woman. She is the only human villainesses I can recall in Greek mythology; her identity is not hidden away by being a “monster” or being a powerful goddess or mythical being. Clytemnestra is known for murdering her husband, King Agamemnon, after he had fought in the Trojan war for ten years. But that’s not her only link to the Trojan war she's the sister of Helen of Troy.
Just like Medusa and Medea and many other women in Greek myth, Clytemnestra is criticised without second thought “she’s a murderess” but she is so much more than that. In this retelling, Costanza starts at the beginning of Clytemnestra childhood, Starting with her early life as a Princess of Sparta. Costanza shows Clytemnestra as a fiercely strong and protective woman who will gladly defends her siblings. Clytemnestra was raised with the training of a spartan warrior but had to live her life according to the notions of men. From her tyrannical father her first husband, her forced marriage to Agamemnon and her life as his wife and mother to his children and the events that follow.
We see the trauma she suffers at Agamemnon hand; I know I have given this spoiler away in the opening of this post, but after everything she faced at the hands of Agamemnon. I think the sacrifice of her eldest daughter so that Agamemnon’s ships could catch a wind to Troy was the final straw. Clytemnestra endures and perseveres through abuse, loss, and grief, including the senseless murder of her first husband and infant son. It’s not hard to picture why she plotted revenge and took it when the chance was offered.
I love how we got to see Clytemnestra at different stages of her life. She could easily have been described as conniving, or a bitter woman scorned once again. But Costanza shows us how Clytemnestra occasionally crumbled and at times hardened, but always battled her way through. Clytemnestra is a woman of dimension there is no denying that she is conniving but she’s also fierce and strong and resilient. She was a powerful woman in a world that didn't want her to be one.
This is Costanza debut novel, and it is a brilliant first book. The fact that Costanza manages to humanise a woman who can be called the first villainess is a compliment to her writing style. The writing is beautiful and fascinating and laced with mythology that hook’s you in. Costanza helps us as the reader understand the vilified Queen and her motivations through her knowledge of the ancient Greeks and ancient Greek literature. As this book follows Clytemnestra from childhood to adulthood there is a lot of time covered in this book so there are some time jumps but Costanza manages to show us the significant events that shaped Clytemnestra into the fierce and vengeful character she is known to be.  Without it getting over complicated and muddy and it doesn’t detract from the overall story.