Relatability – it’s the one thing that makes a good book great and meaningful to an individual. So, have I ever sacrificed my daughter, kidnapped children en masse, or murdered my husband or mother? Well, no. No, I have not. But, I’ll forgive Colm Tóibín in this instance. His latest novel, House of Names, retells the classic story of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon in the aftermath of the Trojan War. I found that this novel was a very fast read – I probably could have read it in one sitting if I had a few hours available consecutively. Although the plot occurred over several years, Tóibín moves quickly through the major events leading up to and following Agamemnon’s assassination by carefully balancing the political events with the personal perspectives of his three main protagonists: Clytemnestra, Orestes, and Electra. I only know the basic premise of the story, so I can’t speak to how true Tóibín held to the original tale. Having familiarity with other classic epics, though, I can appreciate his adaptation of language, relationships, and mannerisms of the time to be more accessible to the modern reader while still maintaining a degree of authenticity. Overall, I enjoyed House of Names. It was an easy way to pass the time, and entertaining for what it was. However, it was largely unmemorable, and, I think, underwhelming in the light of its source material.
Reviewed by: Kristin Rawlings
Scribner (Simon & Schuster imprint)