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The Song of Achilles (2012)

by Madeline Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
12,977505472 (4.21)5 / 1014
Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML:

"At once a scholar's homage to The Iliad and startlingly original work of art by an incredibly talented new novelist....A book I could not put down."
â??Ann Patchett

"Mary Renault lives again!" declares Emma Donoghue, author of Room, referring to The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller's thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War. A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer's enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller's monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction's brightest lightsâ??and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.
… (more)

  1. 150
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
  2. 110
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (wrmjr66)
  3. 100
    The Iliad by Homer (alalba)
  4. 60
    Circe by Madeline Miller (sturlington)
  5. 60
    The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (konallis)
    konallis: A very different view of Achilles, from the point of view of his captured prize, Briseis.
  6. 50
    The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault (shaunie)
  7. 50
    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)
  8. 30
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  9. 52
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  10. 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.
  11. 10
    Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin (knhaydon)
    knhaydon: Modern retelling of a classical myth, narrated by a character with a less central part in the original source text(s).
  12. 10
    The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
  13. 10
    Alcestis by Katharine Beutner (rarm)
  14. 00
    The Hostage by Kathryn Berck (quartzite)
    quartzite: Set in Bronze Age Greece about descendants of Hercules seeking to reclaim their patrimony.
  15. 00
    Fireborne by Rosaria Munda (Talia_Davidovsky)
    Talia_Davidovsky: If you like Ancient Greece, fantasy, some romance, and some tragedy, you might also enjoy Fireborne by Rosaria Munda.
  16. 00
    The Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  17. 346
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Because Song of Achilles is Homer's Illiad as a Twilight novel. Sorry.
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» See also 1014 mentions

English (479)  Dutch (6)  Italian (3)  Spanish (3)  French (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (497)
Showing 1-5 of 479 (next | show all)
I honestly thought I was going to dislike this book simply because it's been so overly hyped but man was I wrong. I absolutely loved this even though it broke me. I'm still ( )
  Enid007 | Apr 11, 2024 |
Not exactly what it was hyped up to be but was still quite enjoyable.

Reading the way Patroclus and Achilles met and grew closer over the 18 years was quite interesting because they quite literally went through everything and still ended up together.

Didn't expect Thetis finally accepting Patroclus in the end tho but I’m glad she did. ( )
  HSDCAce | Apr 2, 2024 |
"What has Hector ever done to me?"

I think this was the line in the book that really got me. The latent foreshadowing in this question is so incredibly powerful, and encapsulated so much of what makes the Achilles and Patroclus relationship such an engaging perspective through which to tell the story of the Trojan War. We know Achilles will die, but it's not because he kills Hector; it's not Achilles dying that kills Patroclus, it's Patroclus dying that kills Achilles; the one that hopes Achilles will live for longer is the one that brings his demise faster - and at the crux of that is that love which continues past death.

4.5 is my actual rating for this book. This was a masterful retelling of the Trojan War. For a tale that's almost as old as time, Miller has done a wonderful job of bringing Patroclus and Achilles to life in a way that connects with the modern society and reflects the timelessness of Homer's epic. As a casual ancient scholar, I greatly appreciated all the many ways in which Miller engaged with her source material, from the manifold nuances of the book’s name, to the special selection of scenes like Phoinix’s storytelling and Priam’s ransom of Hector’s body, and down to individual character descriptions like Hector standing with his feet like roots driving deep into the soil. This homage to Homer, combined with the uniquely humane perspective of the characters which is rather more difficult to grasp in an epic poem, made the book a very enjoyable read.

The reason I couldn’t quite give this a five star rating was that the intensity of the focus on Patroclus and his connection to Achilles sometimes detracted from the sense of realism which I expected a more down to earth and human perspective of the story would bring. For instance, Patroclus seems so completely unremarkable at the start of the book that Achilles’ sudden decision to choose him as his companion is almost silly. I understand it works as a great set up to pair the most unlikely candidate with the greatest of Greeks, only for him to become the true Aristos Achaion, but it did seem a little forced, especially as Patroclus, though never Achilles’ equal, is usually not seen as incapable. Also, I would have liked to see more of how the 10 year length of the war impacted both the soldiers and the characters. Admittedly, the story is Achilles and Patroclus focused, and there is also far less source material for the first nine years, but I thought this would have been the perfect place for Miller to exercise some creative licence and develop Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship with each other and with the other Greek characters more progressively, rather than in vignettes rushing into the denouement.

Ultimately though, these are minor and personal quibbles with an expressive and evocative story told in clean yet emotive prose, and as a self-professed connoisseur of ancient historical fiction, this book stands undoubtedly as one of the highlights of the genre. ( )
  XavierDragnesi | Mar 31, 2024 |
I read Madeline Miller's "Circe" last year and completely adored it, and that pushed me to finally pick up this book. I was truly expecting to love it totally but I think (especially compared to "Circe") it just wasn't as jaw-droppingly wonderful as I was expecting. The beginning third of the novel was my favorite as the world unfolds and we get a pretty narrowed in look at Patroclus and then Achilles. Those were the moments I felt like their relationship was best because we as the reader got to see them learning about each other and their places in the world together. Also, the portions with Chiron were very engaging and I found myself wishing we had more of those lyrical, mythical moments.

Then I felt like the book began jumping around quite a bit and the pacing got a little awkward. For instance, the sort of sideplot about Achilles briefly going into hiding felt almost totally disconnected from the story as a whole and I can't see how it added much to the story. Then everything becomes a loooong war story, and the next 10 years fly by pretty quickly, with us getting only small bits of information. There is fighting, death, an immature king, but it all felt a bit lacking? I think some of these scenes could have been rewritten to further develop the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles and REALLY make me feel for them; Achilles felt so distant and petulant most of them time that it was difficult for me to care about him. I enjoyed Patroclus, but his every thought is about Achilles, so again, it was difficult for me to get invested when I didn't care about a major character.

I'll also note that I listened to this on audiobook, which I don't do very often simply because I like seeing the words more. The narrator of this book (Frazer Douglas) was not good. His voices for both Achilles and about three different side characters sound exactly alike, and I had trouble differentiating them when it wasn't explicitly written who was talking. Also every female voice Douglas is laughable and sounds like a cartoon voice. So there is the chance that I might have liked this better in print.

It's definitely not a bad book by any means! I can see why a lot of people enjoy it, and there were portions I liked, too. It's just not my favorite and I think it's a tad overhyped. If there had been less long portions of war talk and more magic or character development I would have liked it more, but that happens a lot in "Circe" so I'll just plan on reading that again in the future. :) ( )
  deborahee | Feb 23, 2024 |
The Song of Achilles was so beautifully written, I just wish I liked it more than I did. The prose spoke to my heart and the love that Patroclus has for Achilles really shown through the pages. It absolutely broke my heart in places.

If you are a fan of Greek mythology, this book will scratch all the right itches for you. Gorgeous prose that will just roll right off the tongue and will transport you back to the days when the Gods and their children roamed the Earth. ( )
  NotYourDad | Feb 13, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 479 (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 (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miller, Madelineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auché, ChristineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Curtoni, MatteoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Douglas, FrazerNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parolini, MauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saltzman, AllisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorpe, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Windgassen, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
To my mother Madeline, and Nathaniel
First words
My father was a king and the son of kings.
Quotations
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.
We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.
"That is — your friend?"

"Philtatos," Achilles replied, sharply. Most beloved.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML:

"At once a scholar's homage to The Iliad and startlingly original work of art by an incredibly talented new novelist....A book I could not put down."
â??Ann Patchett

"Mary Renault lives again!" declares Emma Donoghue, author of Room, referring to The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller's thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War. A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer's enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller's monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction's brightest lightsâ??and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.

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Book description
Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Haiku summary
Short introduction

To the classic Iliad

With misplaced passion.

(legallypuzzled)

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