Colm Toibin House of Names

ISBN 13: 9781501140211

House of Names

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9781501140211: House of Names
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* 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--spectacularly audacious, violent, vengeful, lustful, and instantly compelling--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.

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Review:

"Mr. Toibin is exemplary of modern methods, a careful, Jamesian portraitist of exquisite finesse and understatement... as finely written as any of his books."--Sam Sacks "The Wall Street Journal "

"Simply and inexorably, Toibin spins the deadly tale we remember so well from our schooldays...It is Toibin's unembellished prose that grips us, pulling us anew into an old story, one whose ending we know yet cannot put down. We are also struck by the emotional distance he gives his characters, one from the other, except in rare instances - a family dynamic bred of damage... riveting and relevant and a fine addition to the growing canon of works by Colm Toibin."--Karen Brady "The Buffalo News "

"The misadventures of Agamemnon and his family were repeatedly retold in Greek mythology...In his new novel, House of Names, Colm Toibin explores part of this story, from the murder of Iphigenia to the murder of Clytemnestra, making it strike a new chord, far more impressive than the pious respect or worthy aura of 'classicism' that often surrounds it. Part of Toibin's success comes down to the power of his writing: an almost unfaultable combination of artful restraint and wonderfully observed detail....[this] transforms his account of the sacrifice of Iphigenia from what could all too easily have been a ghastly version of operatic bombast into a moving tragedy on a human scale...he is also very good on exploiting the puzzling gaps in the ancient narrative, especially where Orestes is concerned...But Toibin has bigger themes in mind, too, particularly the cycle of violence that seems to trap the family of Agamemnon."--Mary Beard "The New York Times Book Review "

"[A] psychologically probing and intimate retelling of the Greek tragedy...Toibin's prose is stark and mesmerizingly readable. It reveals the horrors but doesn't sensationalize them -- which makes them even more horrific, as he meticulously reproduces the inexorable and inevitabilities of Greek tragedy. The calm ruthlessness of the tale adds to its terrors...[a] magnificent novel."--Sam Coale "The Providence Journal "

"Exquisite...[Toibin] makes modern psychological drama out of the Greek mythological cycles of violence that destroyed Clytemnestra and her family, wresting human motives out of stories that might otherwise feel alien to our culture."--Boris Kachka "New York Magazine "

"A devastatingly human story...savage, sordid and hauntingly believable."--Kate Clanchy "The Guardian "

"A giant amongst storytellers, Toibin has thrown down the gauntlet with his latest novel . . . And it is a masterpiece."--Edith Hall "Daily Telegraph "

"A Greek House of Cards... Just like Heaney at the end of his Mycenae lookout, Toibin's novel augurs an era of renewal that comes directly from the cessation of hostilities."--Fiona Macintosh "Irish Times "

"Toibin's retelling is governed by compassion and responsibility, and focuses on the horrors that led Clytemnestra to her terrible vengeance. Her sympathetic first-person narrative makes even murder, for a moment, seem reasonable (...) Toibin's prose is precise and unadorned, the novel's moments of violence told with brutal simplicity. But its greatest achievement is as a page-turner. In a tale that has ended the same way for thousands of years, Toibin makes us hope for a different outcome."--James Reith "The Economist "

"A haunting story, largely because Toibin tells it in spare, resonant prose..."--Lucy Hughes-Hallett "The New Statesman "

From the Back Cover:

'A devastatingly human story...savage, sordid and hauntingly believable' Guardian

On the eve of a great battle, a father commands the death of his daughter to save his army. Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family - mother, brother, sister - on a path of intimate violence. As his wife seeks her revenge, the remaining siblings must find a way to right the wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act.

'This is a novel that is a celebration of what novels can do' Observer

'A giant amongst storytellers' Daily Telegraph

'Tóibín's prose is precise and unadorned, the novel's moments of violence told with brutal simplicity. But its greatest achievement is as a page-turner' Economist

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