Rapid Reviews

Clytemnestra’s Bind by Susan C Wilson

When it comes to the way that Clytemnestra has been portrayed in Greek mythology, I always feel that she got a really bad deal. As a woman written by men in an era when women were not really even classed as side characters, simply plot devices to be used to justify their heroic (or not so heroic actions), she was known purely as the woman who killed her husband, a hero freshly returned from war. No mention of real motive was ever made, simply that she betrayed him, and for this betrayal, she was then killed by her own children!

Of course, the myths made mention of the fact that she had lost a child (depending on the version you read she may have lost two) at the hands of this man, but apparently, this is not reason enough to kill him, or want him dead. She was simply the spoils of war, or, the spoils of familial vengeance. 

In some versions of the tale, which are hinted at in this book, her husband’s family is cursed, not in the traditional sense, but the family line is blighted with evil intent. No one is safe, and hints at this bad blood are made, mostly after Clytemnestra and Agamemnon’s second daughter is born, Electra…for there is something about her that is simply ‘not nice’.

This novel by Susan C Wilson takes a closer look at Clytemnestra, her motivations, and the struggle she goes through. She feels she is being punished by the Gods, though for what is never made clear. 

I enjoyed the addition of the duplicitous Harmonia. From the very start, there was something about her that felt as though she shouldn’t be trusted and for her to be shown as the mother of Agamemnon’s firstborn son. That she uses this position in the King’s court and pretends to be Clytemnestra’s friend and confidante gives her motives for initially aiding the unwilling queen in attempting to rid herself of the child she doesn’t want but was forced on her. For if Clytemnestra has no children, then her own child will be in line to the throne!

There were moments when I felt Clytemnestra’s pain and shed a few tears as I was reading. Because the agony she must have felt at being forced to not only witness her 7-day-old son’s murder but then be forced to marry and bear the children of the murderer was heartbreaking. 

Everyone in the palace has a motive for either befriending or discarding Clytemnestra. She is being manipulated from all angles. Aegisthus is no different, though, if you are unfamiliar with the myth then his story will come as a great surprise when it is finally revealed.

As someone who is interested in mythology, with a specific focus on the events surrounding the Trojan War (which to be fair are at the centre of many of the stories that are told by multiple writers of the time), I knew what was going to happen, but it was a very enjoyable and quick read. This is the second novel about Clytemnestra that I have read this year, and I enjoyed reading how different authors interpreted the same story, taking different elements from the various versions that have been told over the centuries and making them their own.

Definitely a novel for the mythology lover.

4-star rating
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