Book of the month – August 2018

Colm Tóibín's House of Names

Colm Tóibín's House of Names

First published in 2017, House of Names retells the classic Greek tales of the house of Atreus, the stories of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, their son Orestes and daughters Iphigenia and Electra.

On the day of his daughter's wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice. His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory.

Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family – mother, brother, sister – on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace's dungeons and bedchambers. As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family's game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act.

Buy the book Read our Q&A with Colm

Watch again on Hay Player

Further reading...

House of Names Q&A with Colm (August 2018)

Books That Made Me by Colm Tóibín (The Guardian, 2018)

“I’m not sure I think at all – it doesn’t get me anywhere” (New Statesman, 2018)

Colm Tóibín's Desert Island Discs (BBC, 2016)

About the author

Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy in 1955. He is the author of nine novels including The MasterBrooklynThe Testament of Mary and Nora Webster. His work has been shortlisted for the Booker three times, and has won the Costa Novel Award and the Impac Award. His most recent novel is House of Names. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookOfTheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Over on Hay Player, a special playlist of talks to view online offer additional perspectives on the books from some of the greatest writers and thinkers around the world.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please email

Happy reading!

Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín