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Helen Had a Sister by Penelope Haines: A Book Review

Helen Had a Sister A Tale of Ancient Greece
Author: Penelope Haines
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Release Date: 2020
Pages: 259
Source: My personal collection
Synopsis: Helen of Troy's story is well known. Hers was the "face that launched a thousand ships", started a ten-year war and brought about Troy's destruction. But Helen had a sister.In a world where women were submissive, she ruled.In a world where women were loyal, she was unfaithful.In a world where honour and blood feuds abound, she exacted the ultimate revenge.Born into the Royal House of Sparta, her courageous spirit, passionate love and lust for life make her a unique heroine. Her character and her choices have fascinated people for centuries. Her story is one of betrayal, murder, adultery and revenge, set in ancient Greece at the time of the Trojan war.She is Clytemnestra, High Queen of Mycenae. 

     My Review: For centuries, Clytemnestra has had a horrible reputation in Greek mythology. Greek sources have portrayed her to be an unfaithful wife who murdered her husband. She eventually gets her just desserts when her son Orestes kills her with the help of his sister, Electra. However, this novel gives a sympathetic view of Clytemnestra. She is portrayed as a loving mother and a shrewd queen who was effective in managing a kingdom.

     In the beginning of the novel, Clytemnestra starts off having a crush on Agamemnon. She dreams of marrying him and living happily in his kingdom of Mycenae. Her dreams of happiness are dashed when she marries him because she realizes that he is a monster. He physically abuses her, and love for him turns to hate. When Agamemnon kills her kind and innocent daughter Iphigenia, Clytemnestra vows to get revenge on her husband. Therefore, Clytemnestra is portrayed as a tragic heroine who has been wronged by Agamemnon.

     Thus, this novel is about power, deception, and vengeance. There were a few scenes I found to be unconvincing. I did not buy the epic love between Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus that the author was trying to portray in this book. I thought that Aegisthus did not truly love Clytemnestra but used her as a tool to gain power in Mycenae. Still, Helen Had a Sister was a well-written character-driven novel. This novel gives the reader another look at a maligned figure in Greek mythology. I recommend Helen Had a Sister for fans of Circe, Helen of Troy, and The Silence of the Girls

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

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