Saint returns with a dazzling new book worth of its amazing predecessor Ariadne. Here, a vibrant retelling of the Trojan war and the Greek House of Atreus centers on the intimate perspectives of several strong women behind their warrior husbands, sons, fathers and brothers as the Greeks and men of Troy fight a ten-year war. Suddenly the Trojan war, Helen of Troy, Paris, and all the Greek soldiers who made it to mythic fame get a powerful mythical-quality retelling from a feminist perspective. The story unravels from the alternating perspectives of women from both the House of Atreus as well as the kingdom of Troy: Clytemnestra, Electra and Cassandra.
Cassandra, a daughter of the royal Troy family is befallen frequently by searing visions of future tragedies given to her by Apollo, to whom she serves as a disciple and priestess. Cassandra has ceaselessly prayed for the future prophecy seeing of her mother, and Apollo grants her wish. But as he grants the gift, he seeks sexual favors in return which the virgin Cassandra spurns. Apollo turns the gift into a curse, such that no one hearing Cassandra’s prophesies will believe her, and at the same time Saint buckets even the male gods as the same brutish domineering mortals doing battle. In the current “me too” movement, Apollo would make front page news much like a Hollywood producer demanding sexual favors in exchange for help.
Clytemnestra, the twin sister of the gorgeous Helen of Troy, languishes in the shadows of her sister’s effervescence before being married off to Agamemnon, the brother of her sister’s husband. Her husband she comes to learn comes from the House of Atreus, cursed by countless generations killing each other in a story of unending revenge upon revenge. Much like the United States women suddenly stepping into “men’s” work and powerful positions as men went off to fight World War II, in Saint’s storytelling Clytemnestra takes over the management of their kingdom and wielding of power, given that all men except the elderly and young boys have absconded to a decade long war far away from home. Clytemnestra comes to loath her husband, takes over his kingdom in his absence, and formulates an act of revenge of her own.
Electra, the isolated and antisocial daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, acutely feels the loss of her beloved and idealized father to war, and the lack of any attention or affection from her mother.
Saint’s poetic writing births a new mythology for the silenced women of whom the bards did not sing or embody into passed down legends. And Saint as bard sings such a perfect pitch melody in bringing the Greek mythology alive from a uniquely women-centric perspective. Saint ensures that the women’s tales reverberate with a mythical ethos, but this time from the vantage point of wives left behind, mothers worried about their soldier sons, and daughters bemoaning the loss of their fathers and brothers. The women’s tales become entwined, with pathos and tragedy ensuing as in all Greek tragedies.
Thanks to FlatIron books and Netgalley for an advanced reader’s copy.