“A masterful manipulation of the classic tragedy of Clytemnestra, queen of Mycenae, Colm Toibin’s House of Names is retelling the story of the House of Atreus and her husband, King Agamemnon. Bursting with rage at the betrayal at the hands of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra orchestrates a murderous plot to avenge the death of daughter Iphigenia, slaughtered in sacrifice to supplicate the gods. Upon his victorious return, an unknowing Agamemnon finds himself ensnared in a trap, facing a kingdom full of deceitful families, ready for vengeance and demanding justice for all the ills suffered since his sojourn to fight the Trojan War. I adored Toibin’s beautifully written adaptation of The Orestia by Aeschylus and his prose is promised to please all lovers of the classics.”
Kristin, McLean & Eakin Booksellers
* Winner of the 2018 Audie Award for Best Literary Fiction/Classic
* A Washington Post Notable Fiction Book of the Year
* Named a Best Book of 2017 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—a spectacularly audacious, violent, vengeful, lustful, and instantly compelling queen of Greek mythology—and her children.
“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 she has long since lost faith in, 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 because that is what he was told would make the winds blow in his favor and take him to Troy; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus, who shared her bed in the dark and could kill; 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.
In House of Names, Colm Tóibín 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. He brilliantly inhabits the mind of one of Greek myth’s most powerful villains to reveal the love, lust, and pain she feels. Told in fours parts, this is a fiercely dramatic portrait of a murderess, who will herself be murdered by her own son, Orestes. It is Orestes’ 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.