House of Names by Colm Toibin

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My review of Colm Toibin’s House of Names (Viking) appears in today’s Sunday Business Post Magazine. It’s the usual deal with the Iron Paywall, but voila, a brief extract:

Myths, as the philosopher John Gray reminds us, are not the same as fantasies. Where fantasies console (think of the festival of happy endings that concludes The Lord of the Rings), myths encode harsh knowledge about the truth of our condition. The Greek myths – particularly those that tell the stories of doomed families – have proved lastingly attractive to artists who are interested in uncovering this harsh knowledge – who are dedicated, in other words, to pursuing higher forms of consolation. […] Colm Toibin is one such artist […] House of Names retells the guts of several Greek tragedies, chiefly Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Euripides’s Iphigenia at Aulis and Electra […] Toibin displays a remarkable gift for telling tales. It is the final proof of his mastery that he has made the frozen statues of this endlessly retold myth come, once more, to life.

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