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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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The Song of Achilles (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Madeline Miller

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,8651633,706 (4.12)3 / 653
Member:kkb
Title:The Song of Achilles
Authors:Madeline Miller
Info:London : Bloomsbury, 2011.
Collections:Your library, Ebook
Rating:****
Tags:2012, ebook

Work details

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)

  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. 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.
  7. 00
    The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
  8. 00
    The Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  9. 22
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  10. 324
    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)
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." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
This is The Iliad, as told by Patroclus.

The story begins with Patroclus's memories of his father, King Menoitius, whose unloving, unforgiving nature blighted Patroclus's childhood. After Patroclus causes the death of a bully who is the son of a powerful noble, Menoitius has the perfect excuse to get rid of his unpromising son. At nine years old Patroclus is exiled to Phthia, and the court of King Peleus. Father of Achilles. Born to the sea-nymph Thetis. Best of all the Greeks in every thing, yet mortal and so consigned to our world.

Achilles chooses the unpromising boy to be his companion. Peleus says, when the choice is made, are you sure about this, son? This boy will add nothing to your lustre. Achilles responds, without boasting, “I don't need him to.” This being obvious Peleus lets it go and life goes on. The boys their childhood as best friends, their adolescence as lovers, and, after being outed by Odysseus in Scyros where Thetis was trying to hide Achilles from the Trojan War , their adult lives as husbands. Everyone knows about the relationship and nobody says anything about it, except Thetis who hates Patroclus because she believes he is not good enough for her baby. Nobody else would dare say anything, after all Achilles is a killing machine.

From this point on we are back with The Iliad but with the story being told from a different angle. ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 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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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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