Quick book picks for May

A new month means a whole new bunch of books coming out (probably more books than sun coming out, at least in the UK). To help you choose what to read, here are some of my favourites coming out this month, with quick summaries and links to reviews.

  • Little Gold by Allie Rogers – A moving and life-affirming tale of growing up different in Brighton in the 1980s.
  • House of Names by Colm Toíbín – A retelling of the House of Agamemnon in modern prose, with tense character relationships and intense revenge.
  • Girlhood by Cat Clarke – A fantastically tense YA novel about friendship and grief in a Scottish boarding school, with a gripping and funny narrative.
  • New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – The next in the Hogarth Shakespeare series is an unforgettable retelling of Othello in a single day in a Washington schoolyard.
  • Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallet – A time-spanning novel about changes and connections, set mostly in the grounds of an old house after the Restoration and during the Cold War.
  • The Nothing by Hanif Kureishi – A darkly comic and characteristic new novella from Hanif Kureishi, trapped in the head of an increasingly bed-bound aging filmmaker.
  • Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee – A powerful memoir of a trans man dealing with ideas of masculinity in the wake of violence.
  • I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland – The female-led modern version of 80s and 90s alternative American satirical fiction like American Psycho, exposing darkness in an industry full of drugs, sex, and battles for the top (review coming soon).
  • The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace – An enchanting story about a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in Liverpool Lime Street station and has never known where she truly comes from.

House of Names by Colm Tóibín

Greek tragedy rewritten: House of Names by Colm Tóibín

image

House of Names is a novel about revenge written with masterful and haunting prose. It tells the story of Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife left behind after he has sacrificed their daughter and sailed off to the Trojan War, and how her thirst for revenge impacts her and her children, plus those around them. This tragic story of family killing family is also a detailed look at individuals waiting for revenge and hoping that it will bring catharsis.

Tóibín uses names and narratives from Greek mythology and dramatic tragedy by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes, but uses modern language and new characters and events to provide a very fresh take on this ancient material. The cursed House of Atreus is here for those who know classical material, but at the same time, the novel works well for those unfamiliar with the other material, a gripping novel about murder and revenge. Reflections upon the gods and the loss and change of systems of belief is another major element to the book which gives it a modern feel, showing how revenge can substitute for belief when it seems as if one’s belief system has failed.

The style of House of Names, particularly in the sections from Clytemnestra’s point of view, are its particular strength, capturing an ancient feel of revenge alongside her personal emotions. Tóibín’s novel is a fantastic reworking of myth and tragedy into a thrilling and enjoyable read.