Historical Fiction

House of Names by Colm Toibin

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really wanted to read this novel because of its connection to Ancient Greece. I don’t know much in this area as I always focused on Ancient Egypt, but I was eager to step into this area, even if it is through a retelling.

“I have been acquainted with the smell of death.” So begins Clytemnestra’s tale of the tragic saga that occurs in her life: how her husband, King Agamemnon, sacrificed their daughter, Iphigeneia, because he was told that would help him win the war against Troy; how Clytemnestra sought revenge against him by collaborating with a prisoner named Aegisthus, who became her lover; how Agamemnon returned from 9 years in the war with his own lover; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved vengeance – and faced the dark consequences of her actions.

This story was told from 3 perspectives: Clytemnestra, Electra (her other daughter), and Orestes (her son); this was unique and unexpected, as I had thought the story would just be from Clytemnestra’s point of view. It was an interesting story that really took the time to evaluate the various repercussions of each action. However, nothing really resonated with me. For some reason, the actions and the characters and the emotions … it all seemed very removed. Nothing stirred my heart or made me feel sympathy or empathy; it almost felt like I was reading an interesting history book. This is definitely more of a literary fiction than anything else, and I think the author really tried to do indepth character analyses for all of the protagonists involved in the story. However, there was no connection felt between me and the characters, and this lack of caring caused me to lose interest in this story. I would recommend this for anyone who likes to read retellings based on Greek tales.

0 thoughts on “House of Names by Colm Toibin

  1. I just finished Clytemnestra’s part! I am enjoying it though I do agree with it feeling a bit removed, however for her portion I felt that was warranted. We will see what the rest of the story holds for me.

    1. Clytemnestra’s part was my favorite out of all of them! I agree with you that the writing style made sense when it came to her. I’d love to hear what you think of the rest of the story!

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