House of Names by Colm Tóibín

House of Names

(Caidyn)

4.5/5

I said this in a First Lines Friday a while ago, but this author is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Now that I’ve read three of his books, I really think he’s a fantastic author.

But this book is very different than what I’ve read of his thus far. It takes place in Ancient Greece, piggybacking off of a myth that many are familiar with. The Illiad showed the murder/sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia, to start the wind. It recounts that story from the perspective of her mother, Clytemnestra, along with her siblings, Electra and Orestes.

What I found most amazing about this story was how it seamlessly told the aftermath (also recounted in mythology) of this death, and Toibin did so through those three very different perspectives. The mourning mother who wants nothing but revenge. The confused brother who was too young to understand. The sister who was left behind and only heard rumors, left to make her mind up about what happened.

More than that, it shows how we can all be haunted by the past, the echoes of other people running up and down the halls, full of things you wish you hadn’t done to them. I found it beautiful, despite it being full of murder and death sparked by a father’s decision and a mother’s choice following it.