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The Song of Achilles: A Novel by Madeline…

The Song of Achilles: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Madeline Miller

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1,6131464,514 (4.11)3 / 634
I knew this book would become one of my favorites almost immediately. In just a few pages, I was completely immersed in the story, and found myself picking up the book anytime I had a minute to spare. And it's unusual for a book to bring real, honest-to-goodness tears to my eyes, but this one most certainly did.

The Song of Achilles provides back story to one aspect of the Trojan War: the relationship between Achilles and his close friend, Patroclus. As author Madeline Miller wrote in her Reader's Guide,
I found myself particularly moved by his [Achilles'] desperate grief over the loss of his companion Patroclus. Patroclus is no more than a minor character in the Iliad, yet Achilles mourns him with a shocking intensity, unlike anything else in the entire work. Why? Who is this man whose death could undo the mighty Achilles?

Achilles is a mythological figure, son of the goddess Thetis, a sea-nymph, and the mortal Peleus. At the age of 9, he hand-picks the exiled prince Patroclus as his constant companion. Patroclus gains status and privilege, and as the boys grow their relationship strengthens into love. Thetis is displeased and tries to separate them, but their love is too powerful. When armies are assembled to do battle with Troy, Patroclus is there at Achilles' side. Achilles has known for years that he will become the Greeks' greatest warrior; the siege of Troy is his chance to shine. But there are other prophecies that weigh heavily on Achilles and Patroclus, not to mention the reader.

Madeline Miller breathes such life and emotion into her characters. Thetis is frightening; King Agamemnon is arrogant and cold-hearted; Odysseus is crafty. Achilles is beautiful, and the love between him and Patroclus is simultaneously intense and sweet. It's heartbreaking to watch the prophecies be fulfilled, and yet Miller offers an ingenious denouement that is wholly satisfying.

This 2012 Orange Prize winner is my best book of the year so far. ( )
8 vote lauralkeet | Jul 8, 2012 |
Showing 1-25 of 142 (next | show all)
Well thought out retelling of the story Achilles, hero of the Trojan war, and he the originator of the concept of an Achilles Heel. Only in this case, Achilles' true weakness, his "heel", is Patroclus. Winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction.
  bookczuk | Nov 10, 2015 |
THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller won the 2012 Orange Prize for ‘fiction written by a woman’...but this novel told through the eyes of a man; a gay man; a gay man living over 3000 years ago. Patroclus doesn’t have a large role in the Iliad, but he is a large part of its story. His death at the hands of Hector, the Trojan hero, sparks his friend Achilles into action after months of refusing to fight in the war. He steps out from the Greek camp and slaughters the prince of Troy, then drags Hector’s body behind his chariot in triumph. The second half of story of the Iliad is mostly centred on Priam’s need to get his son’s body back from the Greeks and give it a proper burial. In the Iliad, Patroclus and Achilles are described as good friends – it is never actually stated they are lovers – but how far does one usually go for a drinking buddy? The rage Achilles clearly feels at Patroclus’ death explodes from the pages of the Iliad...the first ‘written’ piece of ‘fiction’ (or rather, life writing in storytelling form). Partly, this anger is related to who is to blame for his death...is it Hector...or is it Achilles, who unwittingly pushed Patroclus into going out to battle in his friend’s armour, representing Achilles in a bid to strengthen the moral of the Greek side?

Miller tells the story through the eyes of Patroclus, rather than any of the big guns of the Iliad. This has been done before, Mary Renault uses the device in her tales of Alexander the Great, which are narrated by Bagoas, his catamite. Starting when Patroclus is nine years old and finishing long after the Iliad finishes, Miller uses an intimate first-person present tense narrative, and fair rips along, making it an extremely easy read for such a long book. A young reviewer for the Guardian Kids’ Fiction pages said she’d finished it in a matter of hours.It is without doubt my favourite read this year; it feels a long time since I so enjoyed a book; was so unable to put it down. I loved the way Miller plays with the solid classical pedigree of these Greek stories, how she builds figures that long ago became archetypal into real characters, and how she re-imagines the world of bronze-aged Greece and Turkey. However she does have her critics. The Telegraph describes her narrative as... swoony soft-porn prose...Patroclus’ early years are a bit Judy Blume-ish ...The Guardian seems to agree...Miller’s book is unashamed to be a - not a bodice-ripping, so let’s call it a breastplate-ripping – romp...The Telegraph points out that...Miller’s book doesn’t swell or ripen into a meaningful engagement with the ancient literary tradition, as any serious attempt to appropriate the classics... I have to say that I didn’t think Miller was trying to do so, although she is a classics scholar. However, the Guardian goes on to admire, as I do, the clever twist at the end (I’d been wondering how she’d end it, as Patroclus dies some time before Achilles), But, as the Guardian review says...The book reaches a more thoughtful level when it continues to give Patroclus a voice after he is killed. Here it creates its own beauty, and achieves a sense of the uncanny which is otherwise lacking.
This is Madeline Miller’s debut novel, the second debut to win the Orange Prize in that number of years. In 2011 it was Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife which I enjoyed but have to say didn’t rate all that highly. I thought this was far better; better plotted, better structured, better researched with stronger characters. And it saw off
off strong competition: I’ve also read the short-listed Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, and Ann Patchett’s slick State of Wonder, which I have to say I enjoyed equally, but The Song of Achilles won the prize and it seems more than a little churlish to moan at it, when it truly is such a remarkable feat. One thing the reviews seem to have bypassed is the title. The story isn’t about Achilles as much as it’s Patroclus’ autobiography, but the haunting title comes straight from the writer’s first source; The Iliad’s subtitle is Song of Ilium. ( )
  ninahare | Oct 27, 2015 |
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 |
This fictionalised version of the lives of the Greek hero Achilles and his sworn companion Patroclus won the Orange Prize in 2012. The first third or so deals with the boyhood relationship of Achilles and Patroclus, and was a little slow, though well written. As one would expect, it is when the Trojan war breaks out that the action hots up, and the familiar and not so familiar events take place (though the most famous wooden horse in history is barely mentioned in passing). Achilles and Agamemnon between them do more damage to their own cause than to Troy most of the time through their arrogance, and Achilles's son Neoptolemus is particularly unpleasant. A good read. ( )
  john257hopper | Jun 6, 2015 |
I would like to say in all seriousness: This is now my favourite book.

I've been trying to figure out what to say in this review for a few days now, and I just can't? This book destroyed me.

This book was meant for me.

I remember the first time I ever saw this book was in an airport. It can't have been very long after it was published because this was only about 3-4 years ago, and I was on my way to visit my Father in the UK. I hadn't even read the blurb, but I had decided I wanted this book. I knew I was going to love it. I wanted to buy it! But, as my Mother pointed out, I already had enough books to read whilst I was away - I could get the book when we got back.

I didn't get the book when I got back. I ended up getting it on Kindle years later, and then put off reading it for months.

Why? I don't know. I love all things Ancient History - more than anything, the Ancient Greeks. This is exactly my kind of thing. I remember having this same love affair with Mary Renault's The Alexander Trilogy. So I honestly don't know why I waited until now to read this book.

Do I regret that I waited this long? Absolutely not. It might only be a matter of 3-4 years, but I would never have appreciated this book then, the way I do now.

The Song of Achilles is the story of the illustrious Achilles Peleides, Aristos Achaion. More than that, it's the story of what made him human in spite of being half-god. The book is told from the narrative of Patroclus Menotiades, an exiled prince, who comes to the court of King Peleus, and there meets the second half of his soul.

Miller has obviously followed Plato's interpretation of their relationship here. Contrary to major movies starring Brad Pitt, Achilles and Patroclus were not cousins. They were not remotely related. There is no definitive answer to the question of 'were they lovers?' but I like to think they were. There's enough evidence out there for me, and certainly Homer doesn't make it explicit, but you cannot deny the way, aside from it's depth, the way in which Achilles grieves - refusing to burn Patroclus' body, keeping it in his tent and weeping over it - provides pretty compelling evidence.

Anyway ...

What I really love about this book? The fact that it's told from Patroclus' narrative. This was a genius stroke by Miller. It certainly wouldn't have been anywhere near as good if it had been told from an impersonal third person, or even from Achilles point of view. How could you possibly relate to someone who was half-god? But to the poor mortal who loved him? That you can relate to. Almost everyone will have had that experience of thinking someone divine through the force of your feelings for them. The only difference here, is Achilles really is of the divine.

Patroclus is the relateable outcast. He's not a loser by any means, but he's just not a warrior in a culture where the true measure of a man is in his ability to be one, surrounded as they are by stories of heroes and gods. So far in that the divinities are real characters in this book: Thetis, Achilles' mother; Chiron, Centaur and teacher; and cameos by Apollo and minor Gods. The addition of these characters adds a sense of magic, whilst maintaining a sense of realism. You feel that it is quite feasible that they existed once, and that they did play a part in this story.

The Story of Achilles is one that is recognised the world over, and the name of Achilles is synonymous with the name Troy. But that's not what this book is about. This book is a love story. It's the story of two best friends growing up, learning to love each other, discovering their world together and their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of their love.The depth of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is what really sets this book apart from all the other re-tellings of the Illiad.

If you only read one book this year, make it this one. ( )
1 vote LydiaLeigh257 | Apr 29, 2015 |
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
One of the greatest love stories never told…until Miller chose to work with this ancient story.
This is the love song of Patroclus for Achilles, a demi-god who befriends him while they are both young. Their friendship grows into something more, a powerful expression of the heart. But when the winds of war blow over them both, they must bow to Achilles’ fate and join forces fighting Troy to recapture Helen of Sparta.
Told in prose that is spare yet masterful, The Song of Achilles reveals the deeper movements that drive both Patroclus and Achilles forward to their deaths. Told with warmth that lacks any overblown sentimentality, this story is moving and emotionally fulfilling. A must-read for fans of mythology and those who enjoy walking side-by-side with lovers who face destiny with courage.
( )
1 vote Laine-Cunningham | Feb 22, 2015 |
Trojan War/Iliad slash fanfic. All the lead-up was pretty engaging and the prose had a spare but fluid quality to it. The treatment of the actual war felt a bit cursory, though I understood that Miller was more interested in character than in action scenes. Maybe what bothered me was that this was where it felt more like briefly retelling the Iliad than telling her own story, as most of the book had been. ( )
  kleos_aphthiton | Feb 8, 2015 |
I didn't expect to like The Song of Achilles as much as I did. I didn't expect to like it much at all, it being a well-regarded book about a mythological warrior, whose story was already familiar to me in broad strokes, if not in the details. Not only would there be a lot of battle scenes, but I knew how the story ended. But[Madeline Miller tells the familiar story in a fresh way and her love of Greek mythology shows through.

While Achilles himself remains a bit of a cipher, his companion, Patroclus, is vividly real, and it's from his point of view that the story is told. The world Miller writes about is very different from our own, with centaurs and sea-nymphs, myth-makers and men who prefer to die young and violently, but leaving behind a glittering reputation, than to die old and have lived a life of obscure prosperity. But the fears and emotions, Miller tells the reader, were the same, with people struggling to survive and to know what the right thing to do is.

What results is a compelling, unputdownable story. We know the end before we begin, but so does Achilles himself, lending added weight to the decisions he makes. And Patroclus is a worthy narrator, as he changes from an uncertain, tentative boy into a man willing to take risks and make hard decisions. ( )
3 vote RidgewayGirl | Jan 9, 2015 |
okay, this is gonna be edited cus I'm at the library right now and I'm hungry but here's my quick verdict:

You'd think that I'd be all over this stuff (gratuitous background: former/failed classics student, mildly ashamed reader of trashy slash fanfiction). But I found this novel disappointing, especially since I had read so many gushing reviews. Despite Miller's credentials as a classics instructor at Brown), the book feels curiously fanfiction-y?? Don't get me wrong, the writing is beautiful in its simple, clear way (expect dozens of pretty similes comparing people's voices to the ocean or whatever), but I couldn't shake the feeling that a super-talented 16 year old girl could have written it.

The mythological aspect is pretty cheesy. There could have been a way to incorporate divine intervention into the story without it being so explicit. I think it's better to have men BELIEVING that the gods are meddling (think the sacrifice of Iphigenia in return for favorable winds) rather than to show direct evidence of the existence of the gods, but here, the gods literally walk the earth. I actually prefer the realist touch of interpretations like the Brad Pitt vehicle "Troy" (which doesn't stop it from being a terrible movie. don't watch it.)

also Patroclus is basically like Bella Swann for like 3/4th of the book. Jeez we get it, you have a giant hard-on for Edward Cullen Achilles. Thetis (Achilles's controlling mother) and others express their bewilderment with Achilles choosing the wimpy Patroclus as his companion --I gotta say, I was puzzled too. but by the end, you finally catch a glimpse of what achilles saw in patroclus. patroclus and achilles have exchanged roles: Achilles becomes a whiny little bitch and under duress, Patroclus proves that he is truly the "best of the Myrmidons".

the most moving passage in the book is when patroclus and achilles are enjoying the golden days of their youth and achilles vows that he *will* be happy despite the fact that every epic hero that came before him (Heracles, Jason, etc.) experienced great tragedy. It's a beautiful, heartbreaking moment. we know that the boys can't escape fate, but we can't help but hope that maybe, this time, something will change.

I'm not really sure that "Song of Achilles" deserved to win 2012's Orange Prize (excuse me, the Women's Prize. Who came up with that name change again?) And if you really want to read about eros between young male heroes, I'd suggest trying Mary Renault instead. But if you still want to see what all the fuss is about, "Song of Achilles" is a quick and easy read. (I read it over the course of two nights during a summer derecho, electricity out, in my sweltering living room with a flashlight).

oh and finally, I can't finish this review without saying... achilles: top in the streets, bottom in the sheets Y/Y?!! ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
Lovely book and fun entertaining read. Only unfortunate matter is that all the characters visually resemble the actors from the troy movie including brad Pitt as Achilles. ( )
  lincolnpan | Dec 31, 2014 |
A cleverly written story of the Iliad (at least the Achilles' part of the Iliad) from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles' closest friend. Wish I'd read The Iliad more recently to know how similar or divergent this book is, there are definitely liberties taken, but I enjoyed reading it. The relationships are realistically developed, and the interactions between the Gods and the humans are fascinating. There's a great synopsis of characters at the end, which would have been helpful to use throughout - has more of the back story than this is outside of the scope of this book. I'd love to read a similar reselling of The Odyssey next... ( )
  asawyer | Dec 31, 2014 |
i started out not liking it. War books aren't really my thing, neither is Greek mythology, but I knew a little bit about it from college, and it was our book club read, so I gave it a shot.
I love m/m novels, so that was a bonus.

Took me a while to get into it, but overall I thought it was a nice story! A nice re-telling of a part of mythology that doesn't always get touched on. ( )
  ariel.kirst | Nov 14, 2014 |
Admittedly, I am a biased reviewer. The author and I attended the same high school & college (she was 2 years ahead of me), and I am a very proud alum, a moderate classics nerd, and a sucker for tragic love stories. But I really did love this book. And it inspired me to read the copy of the Iliad that's been on my bookshelf for a dozen years. ( )
1 vote lexmccall | Sep 3, 2014 |
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.
( )
1 vote Evalangui | Aug 22, 2014 |
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 |
This is a retelling of the Greek tale of the Trojan War, specifically the involvement of the hero Achilles. I suppose most of us know the outline of the story, even if we're a bi t more hazy over the details, but this is a fantastic retelling. Told mostly in the first person by Achilles' boon companion, the tale starts when they are young boys, and continues through their teenage years to manhood and death (I don't think that's a spoiler...). The first person telling makes it all very vibrant and immediate. It is a book that is, primarily, about love, ambition, greed and grief - the whole gamut of human emotion is here. While Achilles is half god, Patroclus, his companion, is of more earthy stock. No great high flyers in his ancestry, and he's not a great sucess as a son, but comes into his own as he grows. Throughout the book there is prophecy concerning Achilles (and this avoids the problem of knowing the ending, you all know the ending) but the interpretation of them is not clear. The ending overturns these somewhat in that the expected events after Achilles death don;t occur. What does shows yet another facet of grief and the ability to let go. the last few chapters had me in tears.
I thought this an excellent read. ( )
  Helenliz | Feb 12, 2014 |
This captures the crazed ferocity of The Iliad and Achilles' bond with supposed lover (it is not really explicit in Homer) Patroclus unlike anything I've ever read since Logue's Homer esp. All Day Permanent Red: The First Battle Scenes of Homer's Iliad Rewritten (http://www.librarything.com/work/129758).

The contemporary Iliad translations like Robert Fagles' (http://www.librarything.com/work/5057/book/55626030) and Stephen Mitchell's (http://www.librarything.com/work/5057/book/80878876) are both terrific, but are still limited in scope to Homer's text where Patroclus is a fairly minor character and Achilles' motivation for revenge on Hector might seem a bit thin and unknown.

Madeline Miller has built an entire prequel of Achilles' and Patroclus' lives prior to the Iliad and it isn't until Chapter 25 (pg. 271 of 378 in this paperback edition) that the narrative links up with the beginning of Homer. If you never got it (The Iliad) before, all of sudden you can totally buy all of it, the bonds of friendship & love and the savagery of revenge & bloodlust. You'll even buy into the Gods and Immortals as full participants, which probably makes this a magic-realism novel in the contemporary lingo.

Highly recommended! ( )
1 vote alanteder | Jan 31, 2014 |
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