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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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1,3851275,497 (4.13)3 / 582
Title:The Song of Achilles
Authors:Madeline Miller
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2011), Edition: Export ed, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, retelling

Work details

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)

  1. 90
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
  2. 50
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (wrmjr66)
  3. 40
    The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault (shaunie)
  4. 30
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  5. 30
    The Iliad by Homer (alalba)
  6. 20
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  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 Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  9. 321
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (one-horse.library)
    one-horse.library: Because Song of Achilles is Homer's Illiad as a Twilight novel. Sorry.

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Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
I read this one for the book club. It's a retelling of pre-Iliad and Iliad events through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles' childhood friend and later comrade and lover.

It's pretty bad when my favorite characters end up being Thetis, Achilles' sea goddess mother, and Chiron, the boys' centaur teacher. As for the main love story, it just didn't grab me--just because it's slash fanfiction doesn't mean it's automatically deep.

Things that turned me off were the wandering verb tenses (some text is in present tense; some in past tense, with no rhyme or reason), typos (Phoinix/Phoenix), and the presence of threatened and actual rape (although I do think the author kept it to a minimum).

Positives: The political maneuvering between the immortals and mortals, and giving us the sense of just how LONG the siege of Troy dragged on. But overall, it just wasn't my cup of tea. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
Retelling if The Iliad with gay Achilles and awkward Patroclus ( )
  Mumineurope | Jul 13, 2014 |
This is a retelling of Homer's Iliad. The author has brought the characters to life, with narration done through the eyes of Patroclus, companion to Achilles. It is also part a love story. Really a beautifully crafted work. I hope she produces a similar retelling for the Odyssey. ( )
  seanvk | Jun 30, 2014 |
Very Mary Renualt, but a bit blah and limp. In its favor it is very transporting. You can easily lose yourself in its world and there are lots of sensual details (though no sex at all), but something about it lacks the force and urgency that the plot seems to demand. ( )
  knownever | May 4, 2014 |
Bummers! Greek bummers! Ancient Greek bummers! And, as any scholar of the classics will tell you, that’s the worst kind of bummer.
Trash! Utter trash! Compelling trash! And that’s the worst kind of trash.
Madeline Miller’s ‘The song of Achilles’ is so shockingly bad that at several points I had to wonder if it was some sort of satire, parody or just the result of a bet. For instance, a young man’s sexual awakening is celebrated with a spot of self-pollution in a grove of trees, after which he discovers a fallen branch and decides to fashion it in to a present for his mate. That’s right, he gets wood, and he wants to give his wood to his special friend, after polishing it for a while.
The first half of the book is a love story. Prince Achilles is half god, half human and all hero-in-waiting. He befriends the narrator, the exiled, ex-Prince, Patroclus, and the kids bond, literally. It’s all rather sweet, bashful gazes across the dinner table, assistance with a fig-juggling practice, harp lessons and then straight to the bedchamber. Of course, Achilles’s sea-nymph mother is disapproving of Achilles friendship with Patroclus. Possibly because he’s a bloke, more likely because he’s mortal.
Mediterranean metaphors, not all as subtle as the woody one, abound. Skin at night is as dark as olive, kisses are sweet as figs, jizz is as white as sand on a moonlit beach, that sort of thing. It’s all very romantic. And restrained. As soon as the boys put their hands below the belt, the action stops. Like in boxing.
The prose style is spartan. After all, these are fighters, as well as lovers. Even when they lounge in an olive grove, spitting seed at one another, they do so in short sentences.
The second half of the book is a war story, specifically, some of the siege of Troy.
In the end, this is a tragic (Greek tragedy, and that’s the worst kind of tragedy) fable about celebrity. Achilles may be a god, but his ego is monsterous. He knows he’s good, he wants to be great, he wants to be a legend. From birth he has been fated to be history’s greatest warrior, this knowledge is both spur and burden and he is portrayed as a doomed rock-star demi-god of war with the looks to match.
The book deals with the mythic aspects of ancient Greece in the time of gods and heroes in a fascinatingly straightforward fashion. Gods exist, as do mythical beasts like centaurs. These are not, however, beings encountered in everyday life and those who meet with heroes and demi-gods are overawed, like modern mortals meeting A list celebrities. Petroclus, the most mortal of narrators, effectively conveys the strangeness of this world of gods, magic, warfare and privilege, our guide to an enchanted, dangerous world.
The whole thing is essentially like an extended answer to the question ‘what would the story of Achilles be like if it was reported in today’s tabloid press and celebrity magazines? The love and the war, the huge egos, the beauty and the predictions are given a tabloidesque telling, where short sentences suit.
Maybe that’s what’s so compelling. The war is reported in an immediate fashion, a clash not just of mighty muscles but mighty egos. And then there’s the question, is a woman really worth all this? The ten year siege, the murder and mayhem, the looting and the bloody, bloody warfare. Even with Achilles doing what he was born to do, cutting a bloody swath through the foe, there’s noting heroic about the gore-soaked figure who returns to his tent every evening.
Ultimately, this is a book about destiny, running from it, fulfilling it. All Achilles cares about, Petroclus apart, is poets writing about him, potters making vases about him.
It’s all about fame and celebrity.
So, trash.
Full disclosure, if I had a spare five minutes, I would find myself reaching for the book, eager to see what happened next and, on a train journey, so engrossed was I that on one occasion, I almost missed my stop. Engrossed in utter trash, but engrossed all the same. ( )
1 vote macnabbs | Mar 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (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 (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Madeline Millerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Douglas, FrazerNarratorsecondary 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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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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