House of Names

Customer Reviews

264 Ratings

Overall Ratings

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5 out of 5 stars
By David on 06-27-17

Power. Control. Restraint.

Colm Toibin is a favorite novelist, and House of Names is one of his best. His legendary characters, whose names I vaguely knew—Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes, Electra—struggle in ways that are both remote (the classical world) and current (the lust for power). The novel is filled with surprises, right until the end. The characters accept their world of unbearable violence with restraint and (often) quiet determination.

This novel is so well-written, I would want to listen again. The prose is spare and often moving. By the end, I felt like I knew the palace corridors, the sunken gardens and the barren landscape as if I’d seen a film.

The three narrators were superb. They made judicious use of silence, giving this reader a few moments to grasp the subtlety of the characters’ interactions and the shock of some of the action. Overall, a superb listen.

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16 of 17 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Eric on 06-08-17

Exquisite retelling of ancient tale

Would you listen to House of Names again? Why?

A friend who had just read it recommended it to me. I had no idea what it was about and had I known, I probably would not have purchased it. But it was a wonderful, gripping and educational listen and I intend to recommend it far and wide.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

All the narrators did a splendid job but I am a big fan of Juliet Stevenson and enjoyed her reading the most.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It didn't make me laugh or cry. It brought alive plays I read in college eons ago and reawakened my understanding of a relevant historical period.

Any additional comments?

Toibin is a very fine writer and there is no one to whom I would not recommend this audible presentation. None of it is "hard," but I think a listener would get mesmerized by the book more swiftly than a reader.

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13 of 14 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By P. Carson on 10-29-17

A Classic Greek Tragedy Reimagined

I have read several of the author's other novels and short stories. The classical Greek dramas surrounding the life of Agamemnon, his wife, daughters, and son and their part in Homer's Iliad are well known but form a very unusual setting for a modern Colm Toibin novel. I am much more impressed by this book than by any of Toibin's other works. The story is very understandable but the author's insights shine a blazing light on each of the characters and what moves each person.

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4 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Jenn on 08-19-17

A brilliant book!

Where does House of Names rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Listening to, as opposed to reading this book, adds much to it. It is in the voices of Clytemnestra, Orestes and Elektra, each read by a different reader. And it is fitting to have a Greek legend read to you as it honors the ancient tradition of how the stories were told.

Any additional comments?

If you enjoyed The Master and The Testament of Mary, you will love The House of Names. Colm Toibin outdoes himself in this work. He combines his exceptional ability to imagine the life of legendary figures and make them human by giving them a voice, as well as leaving much to the imagination in what is said and what is unsaid, as in the relationship between Orestes and Leander.

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4 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Autodidact on 07-15-17

Have never enjoyed Greek history until now.

Colm Toibin, masterful as always has brought this story fully present. Bravo. I listened to this as I have always enjoyed his work and just discovered the treat of Juliet Stevenson as a reader.

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4 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Gretchen SLP on 02-17-18

Oh My Gods

This book is one riveting, spellbinding, can’t-look-away long monologue (okay, THREE long monologues), and ten times more powerful and mesmerizing even than Tóibín’s Testament of Mary. Usually, if I’m not feeling well physically, and especially if I’m so ill that I’ve had to call in sick to work, NO reading material is transporting enough, and my only viable entertainment options are staring blankly out the window, playing mostly-mindless word games on my phone or binge-watching old episodes of Friends or The West Wing. This book was different. I didn’t have to struggle to finish it; I had to struggle to put it down long enough to take care of myself, drink tea, eat and sleep. I had no choice but to purchase the Kindle edition also just so I could continue reading in all settings even where audio not feasible (e.g., doctor’s office). Not only that, but this book turned me, a person who was frequently apparently the only person in my graduate English seminars who never cared two straws about Greek mythology (and could not even manage to convincingly pretend to care), to purchase and download the Audible version of the Oresteia so I could listen to that production next. In themes, setting and tone, House of Names is most similar to Mary Renault’s classic The King Must Die (come to think of it, is THAT book available on Audible? If so, I need to get it and re-appreciate it now), but more suspenseful, much more of a page-turner. Many thanks to fellow reviewers I follow (especially David from Stamford, Bree from Ocala, and Eric) for recommending it; if not for you, I probably wouldn’t have even known about it, much less picked it up. And you were right: the narration by all three narrators was excellent, although Juliet Stevenson as Clytemnestra was sublime and the clear standout, as always. Bravo. A+

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7 of 13 people found this review helpful

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