House of Names by Colm Tobin: Review

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House of Names is a retelling of a Greek myth. Agamemnon tells his daughter that she is to be wed, on the day of her ‘marriage’ he leads her to be sacrificed in order to ensure him and his men safe passage through the war.

Whilst Agamemnon goes off to fight his wife causes havoc in the household ensuring that Agamemnon returns to a very different palace. His children Electra and Orestes are each led down a dangerous path in order to right the wrongs of their parents.

When I first heard of this book I wasn’t particularly excited by it, I had just read Tobin’s novel Brooklyn which I really enjoyed, but I heard some good reviews so I had it in mind as a potential read. I then spotted this on my library’s eaudiobook service so decided to try it out and I’m glad that I did.

The novel is divided into parts, we hear from Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra his daughter Electra and son Orestes – in the audio book each of these sections are read by a different actor. These sections allow us to see each of the character’s views, motivation and actions, some of these sections lapse over each other time wise but in general each new section moves time on, sometimes by several years. The voices are distinct, although I’m not sure they would have stood out as much from each other had I read this rather than listened.

This was a great story full of cunning, deception, violence and plot twists. As we seemed to spend the most time with Orestes, and he seems the most innocent of the three, I much preferred his character and was cheering him on. I did find that Electra seemed to be the character I understood the least, her actions were always secretive and her narrative seemed to hold you at a distance as well.

Whilst I’ve read a handful of Greek myths I had only heard of the characters in this novel, I have added Agamemnon by Aeschylus and Electra by Sophocles to my Classic Club list as I’d like to read an early version of the myth.

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