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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
3,0742362,723 (4.11)3 / 793
  1. 110
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
  2. 80
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (wrmjr66)
  3. 60
    The Iliad by Homer (alalba)
  4. 50
    The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault (shaunie)
  5. 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)
  6. 30
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  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 Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  11. 00
    The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
  12. 329
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Because Song of Achilles is Homer's Illiad as a Twilight novel. Sorry.

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English (226)  Dutch (4)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  French (1)  All languages (232)
Showing 1-5 of 226 (next | show all)
“IN THE DARKNESS, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”

(The last sentence of the book, almost the only good one.)

I was expecting to re-learn my Greek classics, told with a modern voice in modern language. I expected tales of heroism, of the great Greek heroes like Odysseus, of the Trojan war.

What I got was a pale romance, lots of pathos and characters I couldn’t care for at all. Achilles almost always submits to his mother’s wishes, Patroclus is annoying and whiny and both fall in love with each other for no discernible reason whatsoever - unless you count Achilles’s feet...

“His dusty feet scuffed against the flagstones as he ate. They were not cracked and callused as mine were, but pink and sweetly brown beneath the dirt.”

Or Achilles’s feet... Again...

“Up close, his feet looked almost unearthly: the perfectly formed pads of the toes, the tendons that flickered like lyre strings. The heels were callused white over pink from going everywhere barefoot. His father made him rub them with oils that smelled of sandalwood and pomegranate.”

Yes, feet and lots of them...

Everything else takes a backseat compared to the romance parts which simply bored me almost enough to put this thing away for good.

Because, honestly, I don’t like nonsense like this:

“As for the goddess’s answer, I did not care. I would have no need of her. I did not plan to live after he was gone.”

And whenever something threatens to happen in this book, e. g. for pretty much the first time after 50% (!) of the entire book...

“The drums began to beat, and the oars lifted and fell, taking us to Troy.”

… the chapter ends and the next one starts...


… with more stalling. The story never stands a chance against Miller’s prose, it drowns before ever flourishing. It almost feels like Miller is doing it on purpose and mocking us:

“It was easy, in those moments, to forget that the war had not yet really begun.”

Because we can’t ever forget that STILL NOTHING HAPPENED. Even the rare fighting scenes are incredibly boring and full of... feet!

“I could not even see the ugliness of the deaths anymore, the brains, the shattered bones that later I would wash from my skin and hair. All I saw was his beauty, his singing limbs, the quick flickering of his feet.”

And what do we get at the end about the legendary Trojan War?

“THE PROPHECY TOLD TRULY. Now that Pyrrhus has come, Troy falls. He does not do it alone, of course. There is the horse, and Odysseus’ plan, and a whole army besides.”

Wow. Just wow. How do you get to write so incredibly boring and be celebrated for it?!

I’m certainly not going to waste more time on Miller’s books. ( )
  philantrop | Apr 21, 2019 |
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The Song Of Achilles became a part of my TBR list right after I finished reading Circe. I loved Circe and it is one of my favorite books of 2018. I also enjoyed The Song of Achilles, but not nearly as much.

For the ones out there who love greek mythology, this is a book that covers Achilles’s life told from Patroclus’s point of view. It is more or less accurate, and covers a lot of details from the early lives of these two princes. This is a story about one great friendship that turns into something more, a lot of challenges, a lot of doubts, and a lot of choices to be made during a time of war.

The story is very fast paced, and I was skipping through the pages as fast as Achilles was killing Trojan warriors. From their childhood, to their growing up, to their adventures and the war, this book will never keep you calm, because every chapter something unexpected happens. Well, sometimes not too much, as I know the story, but even still, I was quite surprised.

A thing that bothered me a lot throughout the whole book was the inaccuracy at some points and hiding information.

Now, we all know that Achilles was immortal. And we all know the story that his mother Thetis, a goddess of water dipped his body into the water in the river Styx. However, she was holding him by the heel, so his heel was the only place where he was vulnerable. This will be the reason of his death, when Apollo would direct Paris’s spear into Achilles’ heel.

Now - if this is such a common fact, and everybody who heard about Achilles knows it - why wouldn’t the author include it in the book. It wasn’t mentioned once.. Not once… I found this really upsetting.

Moving forward to the characters, we have Patroclus presented as the weaker one, the coward, the person that is mocked by everyone, not loved even by his parents and unworthy. ( Another point that bothered me is that this is not entirely true - according to Homer, Patroclus was apparently wiser than Achilles)

On the other hand, we have the opposite - a wise, brave, strong and handsome man, loved by everyone, immortal and a son of a goddess. We have a perfect example for a leader.

While fate connect these two to meet from their very early years, they also build a love relationship which they try to hide it at first. This relationship will cause them hatred from Thetis (Achilles’ mom) and will prompt them to make choices that might not be necessarily good ones. Now, Homer never mentioned a pederasty in his works between these two, but Miller does. And I am not sure how I feel about it. Not about the fact that they are gay, but the fact that this is Achilles.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It is a great retelling of the story and a great time capture of the past. It wasn’t anything special, and I didn’t feel heartbroken in the end, but it was definitely worth reading it. I give it three stars ★★★. ( )
  InnahLovesYou | Apr 18, 2019 |
Circe is better, but this is still pretty damn good. The only fault I could find was trying to fit Miller's characterizations together with the madness at the end of Achilles' life, and Achilles' pride. On the one hand, I can see that Patrocles was blind to Achilles' faults, but on the other hand, the feud with Agamemnon doesn't totally fit together with Achilles in his boyhood, or at least how Patrocles saw it. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
"I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world."

4.5 stars.

So going into this, I had no idea what this was about. I knew it was some sort of retelling. I later found out that it was a retelling of The Iliad, and I'm a dumbass and know nothing about The Iliad so I didn't know anything that was going to happen. I knew it was supposed to heartbreaking and that it focused on the love story between Achilles and Patroclus. I only include this because I did not expect the Trojan War to be such a big focus in this novel. I guess this is what happens when I only pick up books from knowing one or two things about them and not reading synopsis.

This is an incredibly beautifully written book. I have so many quotes saved from throughout the book because I absolutely adored the prose. Each passage that described Achilles was achingly beautiful and unlike anything I've ever read before. I'm struggling to find words to describe how I accurately felt about Patroclus because saying "Patroclus was beautiful and I loved him," doesn't really tell anyone anything.

I enjoyed the first half of the book more than I enjoyed the second half. Like I mentioned above, before coming into this book, I had no clue it involved the Trojan War. Everything leading up to Achilles and Patroclus going to Troy was beautiful and interesting. I absolutely loved the time they spent with Chrion more than anything. But once they arrived in Troy, things got slower and a little bit boring in places. Initially, Patroclus dealing with Achilles as a warrior was extremely interesting and something I loved to read about.

But as the war went on, everything was just blurred together and was more so Patroclus hanging out and waiting for Achilles to return and tell him of the day. Ten years passed over just a few pages and it felt strange. It felt as if nearly no time had passed whatsoever. From this point on, the main focus of the story is much more of Achilles honor and the prophecy, with their love story intermingled. It took me a little bit to warm up to this change, but once it reached a certain point, I was invested.

There were some things included near the end that seemed a bit useless. I can't say much without spoiling the story but it seemed like something was included just to tie up loose ends. That being said once that ... aspect, was finished, I absolutely LOVED the final 5-10 pages of the book. It was beautiful and touching.

My final thought is that while it was sad, I did not personally find it super heartbreaking. It was very sad but I was expecting to cry and I didn't. Maybe I just don't have a soul. Who knows. ( )
  readbybrit | Apr 16, 2019 |
An easy, reasonably entertaining read. This is basically a homoerotic love story and, although I enjoyed all the references to the classical legends and history, and appreciated the extent of the author's knowledge and her wish to give Patroclus a voice, ultimately I found it rather disappointing. ( )
  linda.a. | Apr 9, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 226 (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, DavidNarratorsecondary 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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