Day 1085: House of Names

Cover for House of NamesColm Toíbín has written some unusual novels, and such is House of Names. It is basically the Oresteia, and we can’t expect happy endings from the Ancient Greeks.

The novel begins with Clytemnestra. On his way to the Trojan War, Clytemnestra’s husband, Agamemnon, summons her and her daughter, Iphigenia, telling her that Iphigenia is to marry Achilles. But Agamemnon is lying. Iphigenia is to be sacrificed for the cause of favorable winds that will get the soldiers across the sea to Troy.

Clytemnestra despises Agamemnon for the deception and his readiness to sacrifice their daughter. She vows to murder Agamemnon when he returns from the war. To take command of the kingdom, she allies with Aegisthus, the enemy whom Agamemnon has kept captive for years. But Clytemnestra finds that she is not in charge after all.

link to NetgalleyOrestes is a boy when Iphigenia was sacrificed, but he sees what happens to her from afar. Returning home, he is imprisoned with the country’s other boys in Clytemnestra’s attempt to intimidate the villagers. But Orestes has been taken prisoner by Aegisthus. Clytemnestra did not intend him to go with the other boys.

And then there is Electra.

Beautifully written like all of Toíbín’s work, this novel is an interesting interpretation of an old legend, based on the plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes. It is eerie and harrowing.

Related Posts

The Song of Achilles

The Greek Myths

The World’s Wife


10 thoughts on “Day 1085: House of Names

  1. TJ @ MyBookStrings May 25, 2017 / 12:17 pm

    Do you think it’s necessary to be familiar with the Oresteia to appreciate this book?

  2. whatmeread May 25, 2017 / 1:56 pm

    I don’t think so. I could barely remember it myself. I think the novel tells you enough to understand it.

  3. Cathy746books May 25, 2017 / 2:18 pm

    I liked this a lot and I know very little of the original story!

  4. Helen May 26, 2017 / 4:19 pm

    Yes, this is an unusual novel! I haven’t posted my review yet but I found it an interesting read, especially as I’m not very familiar with the Oresteia. I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it overall.

    • whatmeread May 26, 2017 / 4:40 pm

      That’s about my assessment. I studied the Oresteia in school, but I couldn’t remember very much of it.

  5. Davida Chazan June 3, 2017 / 1:46 am

    Toíbín is a favorite in our house, although this one sounds a touch daunting…

    • whatmeread June 3, 2017 / 11:43 am

      It’s not my favorite of his, but I wouldn’t call it daunting.

      • Davida Chazan June 3, 2017 / 11:45 am

        Well, I showed your review to my husband and now we’ve put the book on our wish list!

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