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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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The Song of Achilles (2011)

by Madeline Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,8851633,643 (4.12)3 / 658
  1. 100
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
  2. 60
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (wrmjr66)
  3. 50
    The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault (shaunie)
  4. 30
    The Iliad by Homer (alalba)
  5. 30
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  6. 20
    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. 00
    The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
  9. 22
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  10. 00
    The Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  11. 325
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Because Song of Achilles is Homer's Illiad as a Twilight novel. Sorry.
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Showing 1-5 of 159 (next | show all)
The story of Achilles as told by Patroclus.

The first half of this book was an excellent touching story of childhood and then young love.

Unfortunately it all fell apart when we got to the Trojan War. Patroclus is not only not as good a warrior as Achilles (well, no-one is, that's the point) but he has no warrior skills at all. While everybody else is off fighting, Patroclus just moons about the camp until he stumbles across the medical tent and discovers a talent for battlefield surgery. And yet we have to believe that he is popular and respected. This is just not believable for a Homeric hero.

If you are telling the story of Achilles with Patroclus as your narrator, the problem is of course that Patroclus dies first. The last 30 or 40 pages are supposed to be narrated by Patroclus's ghost, which is fine, but the author didn't really bring it off. The ending, where Thetis arranges for them to be re-united in the afterlife, did make my eyes moisten a little, but really I should have been bawling my eyes out. ( )
1 vote Robertgreaves | Aug 26, 2016 |
This story is historical fiction. There has been a lot of debate about whether or not the author strayed from the Illiad. It doesn't matter whether or not she did. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story. ( )
  scot2 | Jul 25, 2016 |
I had heard bad things about TSoA, when I picked it up at the local library I could not remember what those were but after a couple of pages I decided to keep going. I am not much of a historical fiction fan but definitely enjoy M/M love stories so all in all, the plot was attractive. I did not expect, despite knowing the myth it is based on, to end up weeping and clutching my book in desperation. I also did not expect to finish the book so fast, what with work and other books I am reading simultaneously but if one thing must be said for The Song of Achilles is that it is readable, the kind of story that will not let go of you. Part of it it´s its mythic power, the fact that a retelling always feels closer and more personal to a reader aware of the original. Like a rumour finally clarified into truth, a secret spilled in its totality... but another part is Miller´s skill with language. It is true that sometimes her poetic narrator seems to go a bit far with his metaphors but, although I did not find all of them moving, focalized through his personality I found them believable.

One thing I would have liked is to have seen more of Achilles. Patroclus whole universe revolves around him and yet, Achilles rarely gets any words printed. He is what Patroclus thinks he is, not a person on his own right. In a way this reflects the way the myth creates the characters but although I believe Patroclus loves him, I can´t seem to share in the sentiment because Achilles is, simply, too far. Patroclus himself, on the other hand, as well as many other characters in considerable less depth (Tethis, Odysseus) become individuals but not so his philtatos.
( )
  askajnaiman | Jun 14, 2016 |
Excellent. Both personal and moving. A very approachable story of characters that are typically larger than life. ( )
  gahoward67 | Jun 12, 2016 |
A workable retelling of The Iliad, but regrettably I was not as enamoured of it as many other readers seem to be. It had a number of good features, but its central theme – a homosexual love affair between Achilles and Patroclus – was rather unconvincing. The characters' relationship is rather two-dimensional; lots of stolen glances, passionate embraces and angst-y teenage-y declarations of love (when Achilles dies, Patroclus tells us, all things swift and beautiful and bright would be buried with him." (pg. 158)). Particularly in the early part of the book, there's lots of naked and half-naked frolicking in the woods, lots of running and wrestling and panting and so on. This first half, before the Greek armies land in Troy, is rather embarrassing to read; it's like a generic YA book or one of those overgrown-schoolgirl wish-fulfilment tripe-fests like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey.

And whilst the book does pick up considerably once we get down to the Trojan War, this relationship never changes. In author Madeline Miller's retelling, Patroclus is a wimp. Rather than the Patroclus of lore, the right-hand man of Achilles who did a more-than-passable impression of him on the battlefield when the chips were down, Miller's Patroclus doesn't fight at all. He's more of a doting housewife; whilst Achilles fights, he "trailed around the camp, collecting driftwood, [and] cooling my feet in the surf." (pg. 216). He begins to sleep through the day "so that I would not be tired when he [Achilles] returned" from the battlefield and he can begin his doting anew (pg. 212). When he is attacked, he scratches his assailants with his nails (pg. 275). Not only does it make Patroclus a rather wet character, but it makes it even more farfetched when Miller's delicate little flower goes all Rambo on the battlefield in Achilles' armour. Overall, the love story between Achilles and Patroclus – which is the central arc of Miller's interpretation – falls flat. I don't have a problem with the homosexuality or anything like that – in fact, serious scholars have often speculated on the nature of the mythological pair's relationship – but the execution was poor. It's all along the lines of, "I'd die if anything happened to him", "his eyes are so dreamy" and "stop being nasty to him, you big ugly boys". And the sex and kissing scenes are often laughable; again, it's back to the Fifty Shades of Grey comparison with lines like "My hand reached, found the place of his pleasure" and "I felt the spurt of his warmth against me", both found on page 95.

It's a great shame that this central arc fails, because Miller's interpretation of The Iliad is interesting. She provides illuminating alternative motivations for some of the key acts, such as why Helen fled for Troy (pg. 222), why Achilles delays in killing Hector for ten years (pg. 292) and why Agamemnon's lieutenants allowed him to alienate Achilles so gracelessly (pg. 277). I found her depictions of Thetis, Odysseus and Agamemnon to be particularly noteworthy, and she writes some of the crucial scenes well, such as the sacrifice of Iphigenia and the friction between Agamemnon and Achilles (though the death of Hector and the fall of Troy were both wrapped up far too quickly for my liking). She is certainly game for the mythology, and does not ignore the more unsavoury aspects of the story (particularly the rape and enforced concubinage of captured Trojan women).

Overall, however, I felt like I enjoyed The Song of Achilles because I enjoy the story of The Iliad, and Greek mythology in general, not because of anything Miller did. Any half-decent writer could conjure a compelling tale out of the bones of The Iliad; it's not the oldest surviving story in Western civilisation for nothing, and many other creative minds have laid the groundwork of the story. Her decision to centre her interpretation of the story on a homosexual relationship was bold, and I can't help but feel this is why the book has been praised so highly, but boldness doesn't always pay off (just ask Patroclus). Her prose was rather generic: it strives for lyricism, and at times achieves it, but it all seemed a bit faux and inorganic. Her central characters were two-dimensional and the first-person prosing from the point-of-view of Patroclus only encourages the sort of teenage lovey-dovey heartache I alluded to earlier. We spend too many pages before the Trojan War starts, particularly as there is little development in the Achilles-Patroclus relationship, and too few covering the key events of the legend and how the war came to a climax. The book will be an enjoyable experience for anyone who enjoys Greek mythology, but that's because Greek mythology is exceptional, not because The Song of Achilles is." ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 159 (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
Madeline Millerprimary 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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