Colm Tóibín: House of Names

Toíbín who? you might ask – as far as I can see he has not yet gathered the attention he definitely deserves. Perhaps his novel “House of Names” can change that. What’s it about?

Nearly all the figures and a great part of the plot is taken from Greek mythology. There is a stalemate before Troy. Agamemnon’s fleet stucks and the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia is meant to bring favourable winds. His wife Clytemnestra can’t prevent the murder of her daughter and thinks of revenge. That brings Aegisthus on the stage. To prevent the youngest of this very special family, Orestes, from interfering in this revenge plot he his abducted together with some other young men from powerful families.

It’s absolutely thrilling how Toíbín tells how Orestes and his friend Leander try to escape and come back to their home town. Toíbín uses an unadorned prose where you can’t eliminate a single word. Nevertheless, every very detail of his account is very clear and imaginative. In most parts this novel is a real pageturner, you can’t put it down. All in all: 260 pages of fine literary art with much suspense.

Colm Tóibín, House of Names, Penguin / Random House, ~ 9 € / £

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