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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.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
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+
4 of 4 people found this review helpful