Archives for Oerestia

Book review: House of Names

I have a sketchy knowledge of Greek literature [lost in the misty years since my literature degree] and so approached House of Names by Colm Tóibín with a sense of trepidation combined with anticipation of reading something new. As always with Colm Tóibín’s novels, the writing is exquisite but House of Names did, for me, lack an emotional connection. And I’m not sure why. The novel begins with the story of Agamemnon, warrior king, who sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods in the hope of victory in battle. However this novel is not about the king but what happens next. Tóibín imagines the continuance of the story, of Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra, daughter Electra and son Orestes. As always with classical literature, it is easy to find parallels with modern life, in politics, war and television. Double-crossing, lies, scheming politicians, vengeful soldiers, royal disagreements, distrustful servants, sibling rivalry, kidnapping and violence. We share Clytemnestra’s version of the story first, told in first person and more vivid for that, as her husband murders their daughter rather than celebrating her marriage. Clytemnestra broods and plans her revenge, revenge which she takes with her own hand. But the central question in this story
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Categories: Book Love.