The Song of Achilles
“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.”
“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 lights—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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Classics-scholar-turned-novelist Madeline Miller’s version of The Iliad is an epic love story that will have you reaching for the tissue box. Achilles was a demigod known for being a fierce, coldhearted warrior, so why was he overtaken with grief when his friend Patroclus was killed in battle? Miller guesses that the two men were lovers—and she tells their story with great tenderness. Miller never waters down the content of the original Greek classic, which includes large amounts of physical and sexual violence, but she conjures up the world of gods, nymphs, and centaurs in such vivid detail that she makes this a fun and fascinating read.
Following in Mary Renault's footsteps and adding some surefooted steps of her own, Miller debuts with a novel that combines the poetic drama of The Iliad with a 21st-century understanding of war, sex, sexual politics, and Trojan War heroism. Miller's tale begins with Patroclus' unhappy childhood as the disappointing son of an ambitious king. Exiled to Phthia, the 10-year-old is befriended by confident Prince Achilles. Over time their friendship blooms into love, while Achilles' mother, the sea nymph Thetis, grows jealously resentful. Patroclus and Achilles follow Agamemnon to recapture Helen from Troy, but the siege wears heavily on Achilles, who awaits the destiny his mother has foretold and his mentor, the centaur Master Chiron, has forewarned: to become the greatest of Greek warriors. In addition to the central story of Achilles and Patroclus, Miller offers a complex study of Briseis, the trophy beauty who inspires a rift between Achilles and Agamemnon; evokes Iphigenia's sacrifice at Aulis in one quick, brutal image; and probes relationships Homer only hinted at. With language both evocative of her predecessors and fresh, and through familiar scenes that explore new territory, this first-time novelist masterfully brings to life an imaginative yet informed vision of ancient Greece featuring divinely human gods and larger-than-life mortals. She breaks new ground retelling one of the world's oldest stories about men in love and war, but it is the extraordinary women Iphigenia, Briseis, and Thetis who promise readers remarkable things to come as Miller carves out a custom-made niche in historical fiction.
Having read a majority of Greek classics Including The Iliad , The Odyssey , Thucydides, and Aeneid to name a few and being a huge fan of the character Achilles, I was skeptical at first of this modern re telling of a classic myth. A few chapters in and you find yourself learning who Achilles truly was through the eyes of someone that he loved. You must be accepting of ancient Greek culture and their ways to get past some of miss miller's detailed encounters between Patroclus and Achilles. A beautifully written story, to call it a love story would be like taking its glory away. This is definitely a modern epic.
Response to m925134
I am only writing this to respond to m925134s comment. The question of whether or not Achilles and Patroclus were in a sexual relationship has been debated by many scholars for ages now. Needless to say, there are significant pointers to their homosexual relationship. In the Iliad, Achilles is described as staying up at night and longing for his (Patroclus')'manhood'. Also, in Plato's Symposium, where the issue of eros (sexual love) is discussed, Aristodemus uses Achilles and Patroclus' relationship as an example of erotic love, stating that Achilles dared to risk his death to aid his 'lover'. Whether or not they were in a homosexual relationship is non conclusive. You should however, be slow to dismissing her ideas, as there is a high possibility that there was some eros between them. Keep in mind that in Ancient Greece, homosexuality was widely practiced and the fact that they were cousins does not nullify the possibility of a sexual relationship, as we see in Homer's Odyssey that Alkinoos married his niece, Arete. The conventions of sexual relationships today are definitely VERY DIFFERENT from those of that time.
Song of Achilles
I read the book sample and hoped it would get better after purchasing the full book. No such luck! The pace was slow and I ended up skimming several pages. I would rather have my money back.