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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
2,4721942,481 (4.12)3 / 711
  1. 120
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
  2. 70
    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
    Alcestis by Katharine Beutner (rarm)
  8. 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.
  9. 32
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  10. 00
    The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
  11. 00
    The Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  12. 327
    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 189 (next | show all)
For better or for worse, the Homeric epics are a bedrock part of the Western literary canon. Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles looks at The Iliad from a fresh perspective: that of Patroclus, Achilles' closest companion. Since this is a retelling of a classic story (a genre to which I am predisposed), we already know how it's going to play out: Agamemnon will steal a slave girl claimed by Achilles, leading to the hero refusing to fight for the Greeks, leading to Patroclus donning his armor and being slain by Hector of Troy, leading to Achilles killing Hector and dragging him around the walls of his city, only to be killed himself by an arrow from Hector's brother Paris. What's different is what comes before and between.

As most of us know, it was not uncommon in Ancient Greek life for older men to have sexual relationships with younger men. Homosexual relationships between men of the same age, however, were rarer. When I was taught The Iliad, even in college, the bond between Patroclus and Achilles was usually described as just a deep friendship (lip service was paid to the idea they could have been lovers but it was never taught as being the more persuasive interpretation). Miller's novel, however, roots itself in the alternate interpretation: she presents us with Achilles, the most gifted warrior in Greece, as a man in a loving and stable lifelong relationship with Patroclus.

It would actually be more accurate to say she presents us with Patroclus as the romantic partner of Achilles: the story belongs to Patroclus, it is told through his eyes. Patroclus as created by Miller is a gentle soul, a disappointment to his aggressive father, who is banished when he kills another child purely by accident. He is sent to Peleus, father of Achilles, to be fostered, and is chosen by Achilles of all the young men at court to be his companion. Their relationship only gradually becomes romantic, much to the disgust of Achilles' river goddess mother, Thetis. She conspires more than once to break the couple apart, but their love is too strong and they remain together until the end. Miller explains Achilles' rage over the theft of his slave girl as being not about being deprived of a lover, but as being disrespected as the greatest soldier in the army by having his rightfully-claimed prize taken away.

I found it a much more enjoyable take on the story than the original. Miller really gets the time to develop Patroclus and Achilles as characters in depicting them from boyhood all the way through adulthood. She paints a very devoted relationship between them: though both briefly experiment with sex with women, they never stray from each other and Achilles refuses to leave Patroclus despite strong maternal pressure to do so. Since Miller's Patroclus isn't a skilled or enthusiastic warrior and instead serves the Greek contingent at Troy as a healer, most of the battlefield scenes that I find so boring to read are left out entirely. This is a solid read for fans of historical fiction and/or classical retellings. ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
A wonderful camping weekend + Mother’s Day = another book done!! I LOVED this one. Greek mythology was one of my favorite classes in college and this book brought back all the love. Patroclus has my whole heart. I devoured it. Jumping right into Circe for some more fun. 5🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 ( )
  karenvg3 | May 14, 2018 |
I listened to the audiobook. This was an entirely absorbing account of the loving relationship between Achilles and Patroclus from when they were boys throughout the ten years of the Trojan War (although it did induce blushes from time to time when listening in public with headphones on). Miller made these characters complex and real people who developed and became their own men over time. This also reminded me why the story of the Trojan War is such an enduring one (and Odysseus remains my favorite character). The only thing that puzzled me is why she omitted the legend of Achilles' heel, since she does not shy away from including the supernatural, with the gods and the centaur Chiron appearing in the book. ( )
  sturlington | May 14, 2018 |
Patroclus, the favorite of Achilles, narrates the story of the god-like man of destiny's rise as Greece's greatest warrior. (Wondered all along how Miller would solve the narrative problem of Patroclus' death: "An echo, the last bit of spirit still tethered to my body," continues on.) Vividly and powerfully imagined. ( )
  beaujoe | May 9, 2018 |
So this is slash fan fiction, which is AWESOME. Ain't no shame in that, Miller. Breathy and romantic homoeroticism, oh yeah! Seriously, I wouldn't be surprised to have found this on AO3, but hey! instead it won the Orange Prize, niiiiice. They even die in the end, like in all the best slash (because you take your OTP and then you slash 'em together and then you write about their amazing love for thousands and thousands and thousands of words until they die! yay! so romantic). Plato and Shakespeare slashed Achilles and Patroclus, so I'm not gonna argue with genius about whether or not the most bromantic couple ever, in all of myth/history, actually did it on the regular. Oh look! a wikipedia page. I guess the only reason I'm not giving it a full 5 stars is that, is that well... I didn't really like it as much as I like the books I give 5 stars to, though I appreciate finally having an interest in ancient Greece (turns out breathy and romantic homoeroticism is the only real way to get me interested in something, who knew? uh... haha I knew, I've known for years). ( )
  Joanna.Oyzon | Apr 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 189 (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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