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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles (2011)

by Madeline Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,2821822,796 (4.11)3 / 684
  1. 110
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
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    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (wrmjr66)
  3. 50
    The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault (shaunie)
  4. 50
    The Iliad by Homer (alalba)
  5. 30
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  6. 30
    The Persian Boy by Mary Renault (emanate28)
    emanate28: Maybe they are too similar... But both The Persian Boy and The Song of Achilles are heartbreaking and beautiful stories of legendary heroes told from the perspective of their devoted boy lovers. The ancient heroes come alive and one is transported back into those times.… (more)
  7. 10
    An Arrow's Flight: A Novel by Mark Merlis (marq)
    marq: Mark Merlis also takes up the story of Pyrrhus (or Neoptolemus), Achilles’ son with Deidamia when he was in disguise as a woman on Scyros. A very different kind of novel, steampunk, wild anachronism, graphically homoerotic, brilliant.
  8. 32
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  9. 00
    Alcestis by Katharine Beutner (rarm)
  10. 00
    The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
  11. 00
    The Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  12. 326
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Because Song of Achilles is Homer's Illiad as a Twilight novel. Sorry.

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48. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
published: 2012
format: 400 page paperback
acquired: October
read: Nov 8-16
rating: 4

I had to fight my way into this because of combination of things. My expectations were high because this first novel is an Orange prize winner that got a great deal of a praise from readers I follow about how beautiful this adaptation of Homer is. That's a negative thing - high expectations. Then it opens with an elegant but unoriginal style, creates a very un-Homeric Patroclus, and quickly fumbles a meeting of several Trojan War heroes trying to win the hand of Helen. Unfortunately this colored the whole book. So, I need to mention here that Miller did win me over. She did so because she stays true to Iliad in some wonderful, clever and sophisticated ways, because she points to whole book towards that and pulls it off in a rewarding way, and because the books gets better as it goes along, and ends really well.

I think if you haven't read Homer, you won't have any problems with this book. Miller's language is elegant and clean, it reads very fast, and she develops her version of the story nicely, through the homosexual perspective of Patroclus. Her Achilles, and Patroclus and Briseis are all likable, as is her Hector and other characters. And her Thetis is interesting. And, it's a great story.

If you have read the Iliad, then, like me, you're going to bring some baggage into novelistic adaptations and have to come to terms with aspects the author does different that you might, were you writing your own version. So you'll probably also have trough early on, wondering at a non-warrior Patroclus, either warming to or chaffing against his and Achilles homosexual relationship (but if you really have trouble with that, maybe you weren't reading the Iliad so closely). You might wonder why Thetis seems so...disturbing, or might think that's spot on.

And, if you're like me, you might have trouble with her version of kleos, or Homeric glory. This was my number one problem with the book. If I were writing my version, I would start in East St. Louis, or some other street gangster culture where reputation of toughness is part of the survival mechanisms. Because that mentality is the Iliad. (There is a book that touches on this, but I haven't read it: [book:Street Justice: Retaliation in the Criminal Underworld|755307]) Miller has a version of kleos, but it's a cleaned up and political version where the ones involved seem to be playing something of a game which they quit anytime they decide to come to their senses.

But, that aside, if you have read the Iliad you will be rewarded with how well Miller ties her story into it. I thought she brought something to it, and certainly she brings a lot out of it. Her oddball Patroclus works.

What am I trying to say about this book? I think my review got a bit lost. Miller, a Latin and Greek tutor, put ten years of trial and error into this first novel, and I think what comes out is a rewarding novel, one that can be enjoyed by anyone. ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Nov 18, 2017 |
Jedna z nejlepších knížek, které jsem četla. Hodně silný příběh, který nemůže nechat chladným asi nikoho. ( )
  Rhonnies | Nov 14, 2017 |
i thought i wasn't going to get so very invested but why was i trying to kid myself. alexander and hefaistos was my otp in junior high. of course i was going to cry at the end of this.

a beautifully written book, and aside from the emotional devastation it wrought, it was interesting from a lot of perspectives!! i thought this was going to be a "realistic" retelling, so it was sort of jarring when it started with the sea nymphs and gods and such but it worked so well?? like she described the society of ancient greece, and obviously a part of that society was their belief in the gods and supernatural beings, so why not portray it in that fashion.

( )
1 vote redzheadz | Nov 9, 2017 |
[review written 2013]

t was beautiful wow holy god is there no mercy this book was brutal
like okay okay im. i havent read the illiad yet but i would like to after this book. it focuses on the relationship between achilles and patroclus through patroclus’ eyes and holy god wow was it amazing. it was sad and it was beautiful and i can’t even

because okay, madeline miller’s writing is beautiful, and poetic at times, when it needs to be. patroclus really admires achilles, like really admires him, and it’s cute and it’s heartbreaking. i remember this one sentence where patroclus goes, “he smiled, and his face was like the sun,” and that was when i fell in love there was no going back that was when it all started
like oh my god and the ending the ending i didn’t cry because my heart was just wrung out and set out to dry and also i was in school but god damn that was a sad ending and like i’m so glad they reunited in the afterlife
and the trojan war i definitely need to find out more about that i think greece is my new History Thing (i go through History Things depending on what i am currently interested in)

it was really really good and beautiful and simple and heartwrenching and agonizing but i loved it. i loved it a lot. it’s going next to the book thief and the fault in our stars when it comes to my favorite books - which incidentally all have a relationship which turns really close (but not necessarily romantic in the case of the book thief) and then one person dies (and in the case of the fault in our stars they know that he’s going to die i’m a masochist)

hm okay the characters i really liked how patroclus was portrayed as usually looking in and i haven’t read the iliad once again and i will get on that shit but yes i really liked patroclus and the character development and i want to hug him. achilles, oh god, it became heartbreaking towards the end and also Out Of Character is a Big Deal according to tv tropes but yes that made me v sad

the relationship between achilles and patroclus was good too. patroclus did a lot of the outwards admiring, but that was probably because we were in patroclus’ head most of the time. it’s clear that achilles did love patroclus a lot as well. i liked patroclus and briseis as well, they had a cute friendship!!!

and you know how it ends, even if you haven’t read the iliad you will know how it ends and it still makes you cry a lot so good job madeline miller. like especially towards the end. and the narration got a little bit weird because you know patroclus was dead and it seemed sort of the book thief death narrates-esque, and i wish that they got to meet at the end and we got to see it instead of an odd third-person in italics, but i did like the ending a lot ( )
  jwmchen | Nov 4, 2017 |
When unremarkable, ten-year-old prince Patroclus unintentionally kills another boy following an argument, he is exiled from family and kingdom to Phthia, where he fosters with King Peleus. Over the years he and Peleus' son Prince Achilles, both of an age, form a close friendship. Achilles is the star, a confident warrior with seemingly supernatural abilities (no surprise, as his mother is the water goddess Thetis), while Patroclus is the commensurate sidekick, of no great martial skill but humble, compassionate and loyal. When the Trojan War beckons and prophesy threatens, both young men are resigned to their duty as Greeks.

This was a beautiful, vivid, tragic tale, fleshing out more fully a relationship given only brief mention in The Iliad. Surprisingly (and yet, unsurprisingly), mythology taught in grade school is sanitized. I was completely unaware that many classical sources from antiquity regarded Achilles and Patroclus' relationship as a romantic one. I found it meaningful and refreshing, if heartbreaking. ( )
1 vote ryner | Sep 26, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 177 (next | show all)
That The Song of Achilles offers a different take on the epic story of Achilles and the Trojan War is not, in itself, anything particularly out of the ordinary. People have been putting their own spins on The Iliad from the instant Homer finished reciting it. What's startling about this sharply written, cleverly re-imagined, enormously promising debut novel from Madeline Miller is how fresh and moving her take on the tale is — how she has managed to bring Achilles and his companion Patroclus to life in our time without removing them from their own.
added by Shortride | editUSA Today, Robert Bianco (Mar 12, 2012)
But in the case of Miller, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in classics at Brown, the epic reach exceeds her technical grasp. The result is a book that has the head of a young adult novel, the body of the “Iliad” and the hindquarters of Barbara Cartland.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miller, Madelineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Douglas, FrazerNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saltzman, AllisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorpe, DavidReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Windgassen, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To my mother Madeline, and Nathaniel
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My father was a king and the son of kings.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Short introduction

To the classic Iliad

With misplaced passion.


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Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.… (more)

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