Entertainment

Book review: Colm Tóibín creates a modernized masterpiece in 'House of Names'

Posted May 7

"HOUSE OF NAMES," by Colm Tóibín, Scribner, $26, 288 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

Colm Tóibín creates a modernized masterpiece with “House of Names." He plucks out of dusty obscurity the classic story of Clytemnestra’s murder of her husband and polishes it into something new. It’s an excellent read that will appeal to all audiences and make real the Greek tragedy readers only thought they understood.

The story is told from various points of view. The mother, Clytemnestra, explains her bitterness and feelings of betrayal as her husband, Agamemnon, tricks her and their daughter Iphigenia.

What they thought would be a wedding became the human sacrifice of their daughter that Agamemnon performs to appease the gods for fair winds and battle in the coming Trojan War.

Clytemnestra then lays out her plans for her revenge, while their other children, Orestes and Electra, feel confusion, anguish and abandonment as they lose both parents in different ways.

Tóibín’s crafting of dialogue and plot make the story very real and believable. There is nothing plodding or stilted in his writing. It is a terrific piece of work and would be helpful reading for students of Greek mythology. There is no graphic violence, sexual situations or profanity.

Tóibín, 61, is a man of many talents: novelist, playwright, journalist, critic and poet. Born in the southeast of Ireland, he currently is a professor at Columbia University.

Kent Larson loves family, writing prose and poetry, reading, music and movies. He's been teaching English forever and still loves it. He is also a self-published author on Amazon. Find him at linkedin.com/in/MisterLarson.

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