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House of Names

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  4,524 ratings  ·  814 reviews

'They cut her hair before they dragged her to the place of sacrifice. Her mouth was gagged to stop her cursing her father, her cowardly, two-tongued father. Nonetheless, they heard her muffled screams.'

On the day of his daughter's wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice.

His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with

Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 18th 2017 by Viking (first published May 9th 2017)
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3.64  · 
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 ·  4,524 ratings  ·  814 reviews

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Amalia Gavea
There are writers that choose to build their own work on stories that have existed for an eternity and create their own vision of them, because they know they have the skills to do so.

There are books that you can see they are glorious 5- star material before you even reach page 50. Colm Toibin is one of those writers and House of Names is one of those books.

"I have been acquainted with the smell of death."

Don't tell me I need spoiler alerts...I shall be very disappointed...

Death is always the
Pouting Always
A retelling of a Greek tragedy, Agamemnon tricks his wife and daughter into coming to the war front by telling them that he wants to marry Iphigenia, his daughter, to one of his soldiers. When Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, and Iphigenia arrive though they quickly find out that Iphigenia is actually there to be sacrificed to the gods to ensure victory. Agamemnon though hesitant to do so relents and Iphigenia is killed while Clytemnestra is locked in an underground pit to stop any attempts at in ...more
Colm Tobin revisits the recurrent subject of the mother in his novels in this reimagining of the Ancient Greek tragedy of the House of Atreus told in four parts. The mother here is the despised and cursed Clytemnestra, whose damning historical reputation he counters by making her more human and understandable. The retelling departs from the original where the characters actions are directed as the gods will and instead result more from natural human emotions and misjudgment. This is a story that ...more
Diane S ☔
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
It has been forever and a day, back to my school days, since I have read anything concerning mythology, the gods and the ancient Greeks. To be honest, if it wasn't written by this author I probably would have passed on reading. So I can in no way pretend to be an expert nor even make any educated thoughts on its comparisons to the original. I can say that I surprised myself by how much I became engaged and enjoyed the telling of this story.

Tobin sets his story at a time when the power of the God
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Greek tragedy and mythology enthusiasts, dark fiction
Shelves: 2017-reads
Everything old is new again, or so goes the thought process when there's a retelling or reimagining of or reengaging with a classic text. As a writer, dipping into a well of classic material must be exciting, filled with rich characters and deep moral, human questions that transcend space and time. But as a reader, it can be a bit sticky going to wade into this world of retellings, especially if one is a lover of the source material. You hope they get it right, stick the landing, tell their own ...more
Apr 28, 2017 rated it liked it
I recently had a conversation with a GR friend about which books are harder to review. She said that the ones you love and I opted for the ones for which you feel nothing. After reading The House of Names I stick to my choice. It is difficult to find my words when there is not much to say. I am infuriated to feel so non emotional towards this novel because it started so well. I could feel the tension in Clytemnestra’s story and the writing was exquisite. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The House
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Colm Toibin is a brilliant writer with great range. House of Names is as far from Brooklyn which is as far from The Master as you can imagine. A retelling of the Greek tragedy of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, the book begins with the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia and Clytemnestra's vow of vengeance. The story is told by three of the names of this house of tragedy: Clytemnestra, her other daughter, Electra, and her son, Orestes.

The sections narrated by Clytemnestra are the most powerful. Dr
I should have read the blurb before requesting this on NetGalley, as I'm not a fan of mythology, but I saw Colm Toibin was the author, so I clicked the Request button.

It's unfortunate that the first Toibin book I read was this one, as I just couldn't get into it.

The writing is superb, no doubt about it.

It's the story that is the problem, or my brain not being able, or better said, willing to reconcile the gruesome past with the present realities. I'm sorry to say, I see no point in these mytholo
Roger Brunyate
House of Whispers, House of Murder

François Perrier: The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (detail)

The basic story, of course, is that of Aeschylus' Oresteia: a chain of killings, each in revenge for the other. King Agamemnon of Argos, the leader of the Greeks, prevented by contrary winds from setting sail for Troy. sacrifices his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the gods. Years pass before Agamemnon returns, only to be killed in revenge by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. Years pass aga
"We live in a strange time,’ Electra said. ‘A time when the gods are fading. Some of us still see them but there are times when we don’t. Their power is waning. Soon, it will be a different world. It will be ruled by the light of day. Soon it will be a world barely worth inhabiting. You should feel lucky that you were touched by the old world, that in that house it brushed you with its wings."

I LOVE a good Greek tragedy. And this was great. It brought an immensely human aspect to all these cha
Lucy Banks
Apr 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

A strange, dispassionate kind of book, but compelling none the less.

An interesting read. Prior to reading this, I had no knowledge of Electra or Orestes, so it was a good introduction to the story (I'm a sucker for anything to do with the ancient Greeks!). The story is told from multiple perspectives, outlining the sacrifice of Orestes' sister by his father, Agamemnon, the murder of Agamemnon (by his wife), and Orest
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, modern-lit
Having read two other novels this year which are essentially retellings or reinventions of Greek legends (Circe and The Silence of the Girls), I was keen to see how this slightly earlier novel compares. Tóibín's version of the stories of Clytemnestra, Orestes and Electra is also very impressive.

The focal point of the story changes frequently. Clytemnestra and Electra get to narrate their parts, whereas Orestes has an omniscient third person narrator. Tóibín's account is equally at home describin
House of Names is Irish writer Colm Toibin's retelling of the story of the house of Atreus - an ancient tale fraught with tragedy and vengeance, most famously depicted in Aeschylus' Oresteia. This is going to be a long and detailed (though spoiler-free) review, because Ancient Greek lit is something of a passion of mine and this was my most anticipated read of 2017.

This is a story that I've loved for years, and have loved enough to read it in multiple iterations by different authors. Which begs
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
3 stars. Maybe.

Clytemnestra is one of my favourite women from Greek Tragedy and one of her monologues in particular is quite possibly my favourite of all the speeches. So...lots of favour going on here. Writing her story is something i've wanted to do for years, so when I saw Toibin had done it I was both pleased and annoyed that he beat me to it. Perhaps that coloured my response to it but I felt that he has fundamentally misunderstood or misrepresented her character. He has made her smaller.
A retelling is a succes if the author manages to reinvent, but not damage the original story. Colm Tóibín did a half-good with his: while in The House of Names the female characters of the Greek myth get more depth, the male one is sadly left behind.

This novel is a retelling of the murder of Agamemnon, the Greek army leader and king who, at the beginning of the Trojan War, sacrificed his oldest daughter Iphigenia so that the Greek ships could sail to Troje. Ten years after the war Agamemnon r
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This house used to be full of names…. And so was the house of Agamemnon before the gods demanded a sacrifice of his eldest daughter in exchange for the favorable winds for his stranded army. And then a chain-reaction of blame, revenge and guilt followed, and drove this house to ruin, giving Colm Tóibín (and few others before him) a perfect subject to explore.

When I read my first novel by Tóibín - the “Blackwater lightship” - I was swept away by his ability to get into the character’s heads. In t
BAM The Bibliomaniac
A big thank you to Colm Tóibín, Simon and Schuster, and Netgalley for this free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

I was immediately drawn to this book by the synopsis. I read any retellings or continuations of The Odyssey or The Iliad, my favorite so far being The Song of Achilles. I've also become a fan of Tóibín lately, so I jumped on his new release.

To clear up any confusion this book does not take any inspiration from the ancient texts, which I wish I had known when I started because
♥ Sandi ❣
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ♥ Sandi ❣ by: Love Colm Toibin
4 stars !!

I tell you this man can take a muddy puddle and make you think it is a fresh spring shower!!

I thought I was done with mythology back in college. I had two literature classes devoted to mythology and thought I had read and reviewed it all. However, with all the authors coming out with up to date revised books on the Bard and mythology I am thoroughly enjoying the stories.
This is not only one of my favorite authors, but it is his rendition of a Greek tragedy. Toibin's writing literall
Roman Clodia
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a somewhat disappointing re-imagining, in prose form, of the story of the doomed House of Atreus, drawing primarily on Aeschylus's trilogy. Right from the start, Toibin's prose which in the past I've found delicate and precise, feels here loose and horribly self-conscious. From the opening it jarred: 'I have been acquainted with the smell of death. The sickly, sugary smell that wafts in the wind towards the rooms in this palace' - "sugary"? really? In ancient Mycenae? Honey, for sure, bu ...more
Dysfunctional family...

When Agamemnon decides to sacrifice his daughter to the gods to gain their support for his war, his wife Clytemnestra plots a bloody and horrific revenge. In her grief and rage, she doesn't consider the profound effects her actions will have on her surviving children – Electra, silently watching as her mother finds herself at the mercy of her lover and fellow conspirator, Aegisthus; and young Orestes, exiled from his home and facing many dangers as he fights for survival.

Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
After a great first part I was sadly let down by the rest..
Clytemnestra the first part of the book is written really well, it's engaging and appears to be setting things up for a great story, which it is, how ever for me the other characters weren't as strong and I wasn't invested in them at all.
There were for me some strange word choices ie 'Often they saw supplicants but usually they were alone' It might just be me but it felt really 'clunky'. I would have thought ' Sometimes they saw suppli
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaway-wins
NOTE: I won a copy of this book in a GR Giveaway in return for an honest review.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I'm not familiar with the original legend. This story is full of revenge, deception, murders, isolation. It all blends together for an intriguing story.
The character of Clytemnestra was the strongest portrayed. At first, her motivations seemed fueled in revenge & rage. But then she seemed to turn on her remaining children. Her son is removed and isolated; her remaining daughter i
"I know as no one else knows that the gods are distant, they have other concerns. They care about human desires and antics in the same way that I care about the leaves of a tree. I know the leaves are there, they wither and grow again and wither, as people come and live and then are replaced by others like them. There is nothing I can do to help them or prevent their withering. I do not deal with their desires." (Clytemnestra, p.6)
To date, I had enjoyed everything I'd read by Colm Toibin. I love his lyrical writing, his ability to enter a female character's psyche which is a gift that's rare in a man. At first, I thought this book was going to be similar in style to The Testament of Mary, i.e. a familiar story told through a female character and from a different perspective than usual. When Toibin is writing in the first person as Clytemnestra, I was drawn into the story in an atmosphere of sinister suspense. The sentence ...more
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, arc
“The houses were all filled with names,” she said. “All the names. This house was...”

She put her head down and did not say anything more.

When I read (and loved) Colm Tóibín's The Testament of Mary, I had the advantage of a familiarity with the New Testament, and I was therefore able to recognise where Tóibín's account differed from the “official record” and appreciated the ensuing ironies. With House of Names, however, having no prior knowledge of the saga of Agamemnon (as detailed in Aeschyl
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, audio
I so wanted to love this book. These great iconic stories in the hands of one of our finest contemporary writers! But shockingly, it plods. And there is no nuance here, no fresh view. The characters are largely unidimensional, and the stark emotion of the origin stories muted somehow.

I admit to being somewhat confused as to what Toibin's project was. The most innovative part - an invented backstory for our proto-Hamlet Orestes (who Toibin imbues with a strongly Hamletian dithering character) -
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an engaging re-telling of The Orestia by Aeschylus. Told from the perspectives of Clytemnestra, Orestes, and Electra; the language is spare and, at times, poetic. It is just as bloody as the original text but much has been added in order to flesh out the story. The themes are the same: rage, revenge, justice and the loss of faith. The differing points of view provide insight into the characters' motivation and in some ways turn murderous actions into something, if not justifiable, at lea ...more
Eric Anderson
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Surely the Greek myth of warrior-king Agamemnon and his downfall must be the story of the most dysfunctional family in history. In his most recent novel “House of Names” Tóibín reenacts this dramatic tragedy, but doesn’t focus on the perspective of the great conqueror of Troy who horrifically sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the gods in order to ensure his victory. Instead he flips between the accounts of Agamemnon’s scheming wife Clytemnestra, imperious daughter Electra and young son Oreste ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Agamemnon sacrifices his oldest child Iphegenia, his wife Clytemnestra murders him for revenge, then their remaining children Electra and Orestes plot the murder of their mother. The book is written in the alternating points of view of Clytemnestra, Electra and Orestes. It’s strange for story about a chain of revenge killings to feel passive, but this retelling of a Greek myth never felt as gritty as I wanted. Maybe the writing was too dreamy and lyrical for me or maybe it was based on a version ...more
Margaret Madden
May 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
It actually breaks my heart to say this, but I could not read this. FAR too literary and 'arsey' for me. And I'm doing a BA in English & History. I want to read fiction and enjoy it, not read something that I have to struggle through. I gave up very early on, as I have 100s of books here that I know I will finish. There are literary titles that are mind-blowing, like Donal Ryan, Sebastian Barry, Alan McMonagle, Marie T Robinson, Doreen Finn, Shane Connaughton etc. however this is too much ha ...more
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Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978. Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel ‘The South’ (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus First Fiction Award) and ‘Homage to Barcelona’, both published in 1990. When he retur ...more
“I saw him trying to struggle and call out. But because of the robe, he could not move and his voice could not be heard. I caught his hair and pulled his head back. I showed him the knife, pointing it first towards his eyes until he flinched, before I stabbed him in the neck just beneath the ear, moving aside to avoid the jet of spurting blood, and then, pushing the blade further into his neck, I began to drag it slowly across his throat, slicing deep into him as blood flowed in easy, gurgling waves down his chest and into the water of the bath. And then he fell. It was done.” 1 likes
“I have been acquainted with the smell of death. The sickly, sugary smell that wafted in the wind towards the rooms in this palace. It is easy now for me to feel peaceful and content.” 0 likes
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