"Cassandra lifted her beautiful head and haughtily caught my eye, as if I had been placed on earth to serve her; then she looked at Electra, who stared at her in wonder. Many other chariots had come by now, some bearing treasure and others filled with slaves, their hands bound behind them. Cassandra stood apart from this, glancing with disdain at the slaves who were being led away. I moved towards her, and invited her to enter the palace, signaling to Electra that she should follow." Spoken by Clytemnestra upon the return of Agamemnon, her husband, from Troy
Colm Toibin (Ireland) is a tremendously successful author. I have posted on several of his novels, short stories and his illuminating literary essays. His fiction ranges from contemporary Ireland to recreations of ancient stories
I was very happy to receive a review copy of his latest novel, The House of Names. Toibin focuses on Ancient Greece, circa 500 BCE at the court of King Agamemnon upon his return from Troy, nine year ago. It centers on Clytemnestra's revenge for Agamemnon's sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia. Her father had promised she would marry Achilles but at what she and her mother thought was to be her wedding day, she was sacrificed to the Gods to assure smooth sailing to Troy.
The story, full of violence and suspense, is told from four points of view. Clytemnestra is consumed by her hatred for her husband and her contempt for the Gods. Her murder of her husband is very vividly rendered. We enter the consciousness of Electra, younger sister of Iphigenia. Agamemnon brought with him as one of the spoils of war a beautiful young woman who he intends to be his wife, with Clytemnestra being reduced to a servant. In the character of Orestes, younger brother of the girls, we see his divided loyalties.
House of Names is an exciting and thought provoking work. I enjoyed very much Toibin's imaginative recreation of these ancient Homeric myths.