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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Elektra

Title: Elektra
Author: Jennifer Saint

Publisher: 26th April 2022 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 338 pages

Genre: historical fiction, Greek mythology, retellings

My Rating: 4.5 cups


The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods. 


The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon - her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them, and determines to win, whatever the cost. 


Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall. 


The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But, can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

My Thoughts

I read and reviewed Jennifer’s, Ariande, and loved it, so no surprises that I was eager to read her latest offering, Elektra. WOW! I loved it and then some. If Greek tragedies are your thing, you are in for a treat. 

‘…. my voice would be, at last, clear and brave. If I could speak the will of the gods and see the very fabric of fate, I could command attention and respect. With all of my heart, that was what I wanted. To be something other than myself; to speak in someone else’s words instead of my own.’

This book tells the story of three women who are each impacted by the Trojan war - Clytemnestra, Elektra, and Cassandra. If you are at all familiar with their stories, or the overall saga, you are in for a good retelling as this stays true to the original tale (think Troy: Fall of a City on Netflix) and I believe does a good job at giving a voice to these women.

‘A struggle for power was one thing - common enough, perhaps - but the history of this family I had joined was a gnarled and warped tangle, like the twisted roots of an ancient tree. Could I really believe that Agamemnon had severed the knot?’

What sets this apart from other retellings of this famous tale? The author chooses to focus on the ‘tainted’ bloodline of the cursed House of Atreus and how these three women’s fate are linked accordingly because of a curse, the dominance of powerful men and of course, the will of the Gods. I appreciated not only once again immersing myself in this famous tale but reading it afresh through three very different feminine perspectives. The characterisation is a definite highlight with all three viewpoints being clearly distinct. From all three women you get such different hopes and dreams with outlook and ambition surrounding revenge, abandonment, violence and trauma.

‘I wonder how she felt; what choice, if any, she had. My own twin sister, but I 

can’t imagine it at all. All the death and destruction that would chase them across the ocean; the years of relentless war that bought them their escape. Did she have any inkling of it? Of just how far the suffering would spread, how the tendrils of it would twist out to ensnare so many others?’

I believe Jennifer Saint has done an amazing job of interweaving, through elegant prose, the lives of these three very different women. The story is well paced and intensely heartbreaking at times. Ariande was a great debut however, Elektra I found to be next level engagement. This is a book I definitely recommend for readers who enjoy Greek tragedies through a feminist retelling. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Review: Man Through the Ages: A Global History

Title: Man Through the Ages: A Global History
Author: John Bowle

Publisher: 5th June 2022 by Sapere Books

Pages: 429 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre:  nonfiction, history

My Rating: 3 crowns


How have societies, cultures and traditions from across the globe shaped our conception of who we are as human beings in the modern world?

Many who love history become fascinated with certain aspects of the past, be that Tudor England, Renaissance Italy or the American Civil War. John Bowle encourages us to look beyond our own interests and to examine the entirety of world history, from Ming China to pre-Columbian America, medieval Africa to Mughal India. Bowle’s book allows the reader to reassess the past, revealing aspects of humanity’s journey which we might previously have overlooked but which undoubtedly have impacted the world we live in today.

In this study covering over six thousand years of history, from our archaic origins through to the twentieth century, Bowle demonstrates civilizations that have risen and fallen, how religions and scientific ideas have shaped the way we think, how trade and language have allowed disparate communities to work together, and how our overlapping histories continue to form us.

Written in accessible and entertaining language Man Through the Ages should be an essential refresher of the global history of mankind.

My Thoughts

I was intrigued to read this book because as Santayana reputedly said, ‘those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it’. I have a great passion for history.  To consider that this book had originally been published in 1966 (some sections even supposedly four years prior under a different title) it is amazing to appreciate the foresight and understanding exhibited by the author.

John Bowle was born in 1905 in England. He was a history master, lecturer, professor at a range of notable colleges from 1947 onwards. He wrote many historical books on not just history but Western politics and opinions and was editor of the 1971 Encyclopaedia of World History. He knew his stuff! I appreciated how the author opened my eyes to look beyond what was familiar:

‘The debt of our own civilization to Greece, Israel and Rome is widely appreciated, but few Europeans who are not experts understand the debt of Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Indonesia to southern India, or of the Japanese to China.’

Whilst on the one hand this is a thorough and illuminating citation in so many respects, it is however, purely academic and not truly accessible for all readers. I have a great fascination for history, not only for interest's sake but also as a key to understanding how it has shaped our present world. Unfortunately, however, this book took a great deal of effort to delve through and find the gems I was hoping to discover. 

It is a brave undertaking for any person to try and write a history of the world. Yet it is very clear from the outset that this book - academic in nature-  highlights how even still today, we are in danger of not learning from lessons of the past:

‘The danger is all the more urgent since, although never in history has political change been so fast, it has lagged behind the technological developments that have dragged mankind after them and created so urgently the need for world order as the alternative to catastrophe.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.