House of Names

A Novel

House of Names

* 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 and her children—“brilliant…gripping…high drama…made tangible and graphic in Tóibín’s lush prose” (Booklist, starred review).

“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, 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; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus; 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.

House of Names “is a disturbingly contemporary story of a powerful woman caught between the demands of her ambition and the constraints on her gender…Never before has Tóibín demonstrated such range,” (The Washington Post). He 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. Told in four parts, this is a fiercely dramatic portrait of a murderess, who will herself be murdered by her own son, Orestes. It is Orestes’s 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.
  • Scribner | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501140228 | 
  • March 2018
List Price $16.00 (price may vary by retailer)
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for House of Names includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

From the thrilling imagination of bestselling, award-winning Colm Tóibín comes a retelling of the story of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and their children—Iphigenia, Electra and Orestes. Tóibín brings a modern sensibility and language to an ancient classic, giving these extraordinary characters new life. As you see Iphigenia’s sacrifice through Clytemnestra’s eyes, you understand her thirst for revenge on the husband who dared sacrifice their daughter. When Orestes is kidnapped and separated from his family, you feel his bewilderment and searching, his lost sense of self. As Electra adjusts to life in the palace with her mother and her mother’s lover Aegisthus in charge, you calculate a path forward with her. Ancient Greece rises from the pages of Houses of Names, full of betrayals, violence, lust, schemes, treachery and—perhaps above all—the restless spirits of the past.

A Note from the Author

When I had finished my novel Nora Webster, which followed Brooklyn, I knew that I woul see more

More Books from this Author

Brooklyn
Nora Webster
The Testament of Mary
New Ways to Kill Your Mother

About the Author

Colm Toibin
© Brigitte Lacombe

Colm Toibin

Colm Tóibín is the author of nine novels, including The Blackwater Lightship; The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary; and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University. Three times shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.

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