cover image House of Names

House of Names

Colm Tóibín, read by Juliet Stevenson, Charlie Anson, and Pippa Nixon. S&S Audio, unabridged, 7 CDs, 9 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-5082-2790-8

Tóibín executes a masterful retelling of Aeschylus’s trilogy, the Oresteia, through the eyes of Clytemnestra, Orestes, and Electra. When Agamemnon sacrifices his and Clytemnestra’s daughter to the gods, he sets in motion a series of betrayals that not only end his life but also ruin his family for years to come. Capturing the conflict and betrayal proliferating within the family, the story provides a sympathetic yet suspect view of Clytemnestra as she navigates power in a society dominated by men. Stage and screen actor Stevenson’s regal delivery in her natural English accent is a perfect match for the courtly Clytemnestra as she assumes power, enacts revenge, and then quivers with surprise when her own accomplice, the mysterious Aegisthus, betrays her. Actor Anson narrates Orestes’s portion of the tale, curious but fearful early on, as the character is kidnapped and hunted down, and later evincing a solemn maturity to convey the character’s anger and loss. Actor Nixon captures the maturing Electra’s transformation from an emotional and lively girl to a calm and calculating young woman. Together the three talented actors render Tóibín’s retelling of Greek tragedy back into the oral tradition from which it originated. A Scribner hardcover. (May)