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House of Names

House of Names

Author: Colm Tóibín
$35.00(NZD)  inc GST
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Colm Toibin’s The House of Names is a retelling of the myth of Clytemnestra, a story of revenge, violence, pain and love. Agamemnon, her husband and king of Argos, is losing the Trojan campaign. When he calls on the gods for help, they insist that he needs to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia. By trickery, on the pretext of a marriage, he convinces Clytemnestra to bring their daughter to the coast, where the troops wait at the mercy of the gods for more favourable winds. There, Iphigenia is sacrificed, slaughtered along with heifers and other animals. Her mother is imprisoned below ground in a small cramped hole for several days. Pulled from this prison, ridiculed and grieving, she is sent back to the palace, where, unsurprisingly, she plots the revenge of her daughter’s death, cursing her husband and the gods who she casts aside. She releases the dangerous prisoner, Aegisthus, and takes him into her confidence and her bed. When Agamemnon returns victorious from the Trojan wars with the beautiful Cassandra in tow, he is blind to his wife’s desire for revenge. A poisoned net and a blade are his downfall - he is killed at his bath. A feast is held for the triumphant troops and Clytemnestra lays out the bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra, their throats slashed - she has avenged her daughter’s death and should not be crossed. Alas she rules only by fear and the brutal influence of Aegisthus, who is quickly gaining the upper hand in this twisted tale of revenge and rule. Yet there are other players here too, Orestes, the son - innocent, yet contaminated by the wrong-doing of his family; and Electra - spiteful, cunning and cold-hearted - playing a long game in the shadows. She despises her mother for murdering her father, is fearful of the hateful Aegisthus and his power over the palace, and is ever loyal to the King, her murdered father. So much drama, so many voices screaming for revenge and power cast across a panorama of violence and death. When we turn to Orestes’ story it is a relief to be sent into exile with him. As a child, Orestes witnesses Iphigenia’s death. He is kept in the dark about many things but bears witness, as the reader does, to the machinations of others.  Before his father returns from Troy, he is whisked away by Aegisthus on the pretense of safety - kidnapped and imprisoned with other boys of his age. Here he meets Leander. They escape and form a close bond over the many years that they are in exile. Both know they will return, one to seek answers, the other to lead a revolt. Not always aware of their motivations or knowing who to trust, Orestes pays a heavy price at the hands of those he is closest to. Toibin creates a beautiful relationship between the young men, one that will be tested by circumstance and ultimately derailed by the cycle of violence inherent in their lives. Gripping and dramatic like only a Greek myth can be, Toibin also creates serenity within this chaos. Written from the various viewpoints of Clytemnestra, Orestes, Electra and Iphigenia, he weaves a vivid tale that won’t disappoint. {


* 2018 Audie Award Finalist
* 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 T ib n 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 T ib n 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.

Author description

Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona before returning to Ireland in 1978, where he worked as a journalist. His other novels are: The Heather Blazing; The Story of the Night; The Blackwater Lightship; The Master; Brooklyn; and Nora Webster. His short story collections are Mothers and Sons and The Empty Family. He is a regular contributor to the Dublin Review, the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. He is currently Leonard Milberg Lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University.

Stock Information

General Fields

  • : 9781760551421
  • : Pan Macmillan Australia
  • : Picador Australia
  • : April 2017
  • : 198mm X 129mm
  • : Australia
  • : April 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Colm Tóibín
  • : Hardback
  • : 517
  • : English
  • : 823/.914
  • : 272