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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Madeline Miller

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1,5821434,615 (4.11)3 / 632
Title:The Song of Achilles
Authors:Madeline Miller
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2011), Edition: Export ed, Paperback
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Tags:fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, romance, LGBT

Work details

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)

Recently added byglitzandshadows, arena300, mohit, CotyM, klarusu, JayGatsby101, INorris, private library
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English (140)  Dutch (3)  All languages (143)
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
A vibrant reimagining of Homer's Iliad told from the perspective of Achilles' partner Patroclus. The book fuses a sympathetic understanding of the characters and their motivations with fantastic legendary elements such as the vengeful sea god Thetis and the centaur Chiron. Fantasy has never been a favourite genre for me, but we can forgive the traditions of ancient legends and enjoy being transported by the always readable plot. I'm not an expert on Homer or the classics, and have never read the Iliad, so I can't comment on what is added or left out. ( )
  bodachliath | Sep 25, 2015 |
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the story of Troy as told through the eyes of Patroclus, the companion of Achilles, the greatest warrior of the legends. The author, a scholar in Greek History from Brown, made the familiar more realistic by using the first person narration. This way the reader sees Achilles the way Patroclus did. It seemed interesting at first, but I admit being a little disappointed by the love interest aspect of the companionship. I have since read that this relationship was implied in the original works, but most retellings don't include this. Still the characterization of Achilles, his graceful skills, his ego, and his fierceness were nicely drawn. The novel was an easy read and provided interesting interludes with the gods, especially Thetis, Achilles' mother. The novel details the legend of Helen, her beauty and how her kidnaping ignited the war with Troy. I was disappointed that the Trojan Horse scene is merely glossed over at the end, but to be fair the author had finished what she set out to tell, the story of Achilles and Patroclus. ( )
  novelcommentary | Aug 23, 2015 |
excellant. will read again. ( )
  jllady8 | Aug 14, 2015 |
Mary Renault set the rules for Ancient Greek historical fiction, and at least in the first part of this novel, Miller is a dutiful pupil, writing essentially the Achilles-and-Patroclus novel that Renault might have written fifty years ago. Take the lesser-known half of the couple as narrator, spend plenty of time on childhood and adolescence, take them up the mountain to study with Chiron, etc.

But then it gets trickier. For one thing, it isn't straightforward to do the Iliad without gods and goddesses sticking their fingers in the pie: the proper Renault way would be to have the mortals believe in them without actually bringing them into the story, but since the interventions here have to be rather concrete, that gets difficult. Miller doesn't bother to find non-supernatural explanations: she brings in Thetis as a major character, and a couple of other divinities make cameo appearances, but the bulk of the Olympian argy-bargy is offstage.

Then you have the problem of Ancient Greek sexuality. Do you follow (as Renault did) the convenient, but possibly not very accurate, mid-20th century convention that the Greeks were thoroughly enlightened chaps who didn't worry very much about who chose to go to bed with whom? Do you try to make up something more historically accurate but less plausible? Or do you do as Miller does and turn the characters into 1980s middle-class Americans? Thetis is the archetypal matriarch concerned that her son will blow his chance of getting the Republican nomination and she will be drummed out of the D.A.R. if it comes out that he has a boyfriend; Briseis is that equally familiar figure, the Ivy League graduate who's fed up with the men she dates and falls in love with her gay best friend. I'm not sure that Miller picked the best approach there...

The biggest problem of all, and probably the real reason why Renault never tackled this story, is that the principal narrative hinge is the death of the person you pretty much have to pick as narrator. So you're faced with either having someone else continue the story or letting Patroclus do it posthumously, both of which seem rather clumsy solutions. I don't think Miller handles this key aspect particularly well, either. The word that comes to mind (Greek is useful for some things, anyway) is bathos. ( )
1 vote thorold | Jul 12, 2015 |
An utterly mesmerizing tale. Of course, this isn't solely a love story but Miller's beautifully woven words very much enriched the chemistry between Achilles and Patroclus - so much so that I was completely enraptured by the story all the way though. I highly recommend this to everyone who has a liking for greek mythology mixed with romance! ( )
  novewong | Jul 8, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (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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