* A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of the Year
* Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, St. Louis Dispatch
From the thrilling imagination of bestselling, award-winning Colm Tóibín comes a retelling of the story of Clytemnestra and her children—“brilliant…gripping…high drama…made tangible and graphic in Tóibín’s lush prose” (Booklist, starred review).
“I have been acquainted with the smell of death.” So begins Clytemnestra’s tale of her own life in ancient Mycenae, the legendary Greek city from which her husband King Agamemnon left when he set sail with his army for Troy. Clytemnestra rules Mycenae now, along with her new lover Aegisthus, and together they plot the bloody murder of Agamemnon on the day of his return after nine years at war.
Judged, despised, cursed by gods, Clytemnestra reveals the tragic saga that led to these bloody actions: how her husband deceived her eldest daughter Iphigeneia with a promise of marriage to Achilles, only to sacrifice her; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus; how Agamemnon came back with a lover himself; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved her vengeance for his stunning betrayal—his quest for victory, greater than his love for his child.
House of Names “is a disturbingly contemporary story of a powerful woman caught between the demands of her ambition and the constraints on her gender…Never before has Tóibín demonstrated such range,” (The Washington Post). He brings a modern sensibility and language to an ancient classic, and gives this extraordinary character new life, so that we not only believe Clytemnestra’s thirst for revenge, but applaud it. Told in four parts, this is a fiercely dramatic portrait of a murderess, who will herself be murdered by her own son, Orestes. It is Orestes’s story, too: his capture by the forces of his mother’s lover Aegisthus, his escape and his exile. And it is the story of the vengeful Electra, who watches over her mother and Aegisthus with cold anger and slow calculation, until, on the return of her brother, she has the fates of both of them in her hands.
T ib n's 11th novel retells the ancient Greek tale of Clytemnestra, who kills her husband Agamemnon to avenge the death of their daughter Iphigenia, and her son Orestes, who kills her in turn to avenge his father's death. The narrators of the novel are Clytemnestra, Orestes, Orestes's sister Electra, and Clytemnestra's ghost. Clytemnestra begins by recalling that, for one fleeting moment at Agamemnon's army encampment when eight-year-old Orestes was on his father's shoulder, and 16-year-old Iphigenia in her father's embrace, they seemed the ideal family. Then Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia (so he could sail off to war). Clytemnestra plots revenge. Back home at the palace, she seeks help from wily Aegisthus, who, though a prisoner, wields extensive power. When Agamemnon returns, Clytemnestra greets him with a hot bath and a knife in the throat. Later she discovers Aegisthus has kidnapped Orestes to strengthen his hold over her. Orestes takes refuge on a farm, while Electra remains at the palace haunted, powerless, craving payback. After brother and sister reunite, Orestes kills their mother. The novel ends with the appearance of Clytemnestra's ghost and the birth of a baby. T ib n refreshes a classic in part by imagining Orestes's backstory with his friend Leander in a key role and in part by depicting in stark prose vibrant settings, such as palace hallways where shadowy figures conspire. The result is a dramatic, intimate chronicle of a family implosion set in unsettling times as gods withdraw from human affairs. Far from the Brooklyn or Ireland of his recent bestsellers, T ib n explores universal themes of failure, loss, loneliness, and repression.
retelling of an old story, but in a way fully fleshed. Tobin fills in the gaps for the contemporary reader in a way that brings antiquity alive.