Electra

Written by Jeffrey Peter Clarke
Review by Anna Belfrage

Welcome to the distant times of Homer, of powerful Mycenae, of Agamemnon and his brood, among them his daughter Electra. Clarke delivers a retelling of the ancient myths, and that in itself is fine—had there been some sort of original twist to the narrative. As it is, other than the story being told more or less exclusively from the omniscient point of view of Electra (in itself something of an irritant, as she was a small child for many of the events depicted), Clarke adds nothing new. Well, except for painting Agamemnon in a somewhat more positive light than Homer does, seeing as this Agamemnon may be desperate, but he draws the line at sacrificing his own daughter for better winds.

It is evident that Clarke is knowledgeable about the period, with long and detailed descriptions about everything from the famous Lion Gate, buildings, and interiors, to the equipment of the Mycenae soldiers. It is also evident how much effort he has made to bring these long-dead people to life again. Unfortunately, for this reader it does not work. Overburdened prose, stilted and repetitive dialogue, and a plot with no surprises result in a bland read, no matter how excellent the final battle scenes are.

For those who want an introduction into the legends and myths of ancient Greece, Electra can be a good starting point. For those who’ve imbibed other versions of the stories, be they ancient Greek tragedies, works by Jean Racine or Homer himself, this is perhaps not the best of reads.