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The Song of Achilles Hardcover – 6 March 2012
A New York Times Bestseller
At once a scholar's homage to The Iliad and startlingly original work of art....A book I could not put down. --Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
A thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War from the bestselling author of Circe
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.
"Fast, true and incredibly rewarding...A remarkable achievement." -- USA Today
"Wildly romantic [and] surprisingly suspenseful....[B]ringing those dark figures back to life, making them men again, and while she's at it, us[ing] her passionate companion piece to The Iliad as a subtle swipe at today's ongoing debate over gay marriage. Talk about updating the classics." -- Time magazine
"One of the best novelistic adaptations of Homer in recent memory, and it offers strikingly well-rounded and compassionate portrait of Achilles....[Miller] injects a newfound sense of suspense into a story with an ending that has already been determined." -- Wall Street Journal
"Powerful, inventive, passionate, and beautifully written. " -- Boston Globe
"Beautifully done. . ..In prose as clean and spare as the driving poetry of Homer, Miller captures the intensity and devotion of adolescent friendship and lets us believe in these long-dead boys...deepening and enriching a tale that has been told for 3,000 years." -- Washington Post
"One of 2012's most exciting debuts...seductive, hugely entertaining....[I]magining the intimate friendship between Achilles and the devoted Patroclus...Miller conjures...soulmates. The resulting novel is cinematic--one might say epic--in scope, but refreshingly, compellingly human in detail." -- Vogue
"You don't need to be familiar with Homer's The Iliad (or Brad Pitt's Troy, for that matter) to find Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles spellbinding....her explorations of ego, grief, and love's many permutations are both familiar and new....[A] timeless love story." -- O magazine
"Madeline Miller's brilliant first novel...is a story of great, passionate love between Achilles and Patroclus....[R]ewriting the Western world's first and greatest war novel is an awesome task to undertake. That she did it with such grace, style and suspense is astonishing." -- Dallas Morning News
"The Song of Achilles...should be read and enjoyed for itself, but if Madeline Miller's novel sends the reader back to Homer and his successors, she is to be thanked for that as well." -- Washington Independent Review of Books
"A psychologically astute Iliad prelude featuring the heady, star-crossed adolescence of future heroes Patroclus and Achilles." -- Vogue
"[Miller] makes a persuasive argument for the timeliness of her subject. ...Miller's winning debut focuses on Patroclus, a young prince living in Achilles' golden shadow. Miller also gives voice to many of the women who were also consigned to the shadows." -- Publishers Weekly, Spring 2012 Preview, Top 10 Literary Fiction
"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 [and] extraordinary women." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review), Pick of the Week
"A masterly vision of the drama, valor, and tragedy of the Trojan War. Readers who loved Mary Renault's epic novels will be thrilled with Miller's portrayal of ancient Greece. This reviewer can't wait to see what she writes next." -- Library Journal (starred review)
"A captivating retelling of THE ILIAD and events leading up to it through the point of view of Patroclus: it's a hard book to put down, and any classicist will be enthralled by her characterisation of the goddess Thetis, which carries the true savagery and chill of antiquity." -- Donna Tartt, THE TIMES
"A modern take on The Iliad, full of love and feats of glory and told in an open, lyric, loose-limbed fashion that should appeal to many readers.... Next up from Miller--the story of Circe...historical fiction fans, get in on the ground floor." -- Library Journal
"I loved this book. The language was timeless, the historical details were slipped in perfectly. I hope SONG OF ACHILLES becomes part of the high school summer reading lists alongside PENELOPIAD." -- Helen Simonson, bestselling author of MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND
"Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories." -- Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of ROOM
"At once a scholar's homage to THE ILIAD and a startlingly original work of art by an incredibly talented new novelist. Madeline Miller has given us her own fresh take on the Trojan war and its heroes. The result is a book I could not put down." -- Ann Patchett, bestselling author of BEL CANTO and STATE OF WONDER
"Although the details of the story are Miller's own, the world is one that all who love the Iliad and its epigones will recognize. Reading this book recalled me to the breathless sense of the ancient-yet-present that I felt when I first fell in love with the classics." -- Catherine Conybeare, Professor of Classics, Bryn Mawr College
"THE ILIAD turns on Achilles' pride and his relationship with Patroclus, but Homer is sparing with the personal--so much so that, though we believe in their friendship, we do not understand it. THE SONG OF ACHILLES brings light to their love. This is a beautiful book." -- Zachary Mason, author of THE LOST BOOKS OF THE ODYSSEY
"Miller somehow (and breathtakingly so) mixes high-action commercial plotting with writing of such beautiful delicacy you sometimes have to stop and stare." -- The Independent
"Miller's prose is more poetic than almost any translation of Homer... This is a deeply affecting version of the Achilles story: a fully three-dimension man - a son, a father, husband and lover - now exists where a superhero previously stood and fought." -- The Guardian
"In the tradition of Mary Renault... Miller draws on her knowledge of classical sources wisely... Well-paced, engaging and tasteful." -- London Times Literary Supplement
"Extraordinary... Beautifully descriptive and heartachingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find." -- Daily Mail
From the Back Cover
The legend begins...
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. "The best of all the Greeks"--strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess--Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine--much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles' mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must 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 Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller's page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.
- Publisher : Ecco Press (6 March 2012)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062060619
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062060617
- Dimensions : 15.24 x 3.07 x 22.86 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 2,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reviewed in Australia on 8 September 2021
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“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we cold see nothing else but each other.”
I bawled my eyes out like a little baby throughout so many chapters, and even after it ended. This is also the slowest I’ve read a book I loved, because my little heart couldn’t bear the devastating effect it had!! I will forever think about The Song of Achilles and the impact it has had on me. Thank you, Madeline Miller.
I did though, I sat down and read through because I felt like I had heard so much hype about it that I just couldn't bring myself to pick up another book until I had finished it.
It wasn't bad by all means, I certainly shed a few tears at the end but it was not a favourite and I can't see myself ever re reading it
It's a familiar story, told with a gentler voice. Patroclus, paramour of the great Achilles, narrates Achilles' story. The prose is economical with not a wasted word and yet is none the poorer for it.
Five stars for anyone who likes Greek myths, four stars for everyone else (who doesn't like a cracking tale?).
Top reviews from other countries
The Song of Achilles is a retelling, one which takes the myth and runs with it. Here Achilles really is the son of a sea nymph, he is trained by a centaur, and gods play their part in the lives of man.
I used to know my Classics a lot better that I do now - Roger Lancelyn Green’s books were a staple of my childhood library - so this was a book which unfolded for me. I remembered each plot point as we hit it, so I’m entirely the wrong person to ask if it makes any logical sense. It probably doesn’t. It certainly could have done a better job of selling ancient motivations to a modern audience.
The story is told by Patroclus, a prince and, when he begins this story, unlikely candidate for Helen’s hand in marriage. I am super here for a room full of men deciding what will happen to a teenage girl, as you can imagine. This is a male story, though, and Miller doesn’t attempt to change that.
However, when Patroclus inadvertently kills another boy, he is exiled to the court of Peleus where he falls swooningly in love with Mary Sue Achilles, who’s super perfect at everything (as one expects from a demi-god). Thetis, Achilles’ mother, really hates Patroclus. The boys go off to learn things on a mountain. They are swoonily swoony. They come back. Thetis hates Patroclus. Then she hides Achilles because she doesn’t want him to go to Troy as he will be killed.
Once the war actually begins, a good half way through the book, things improve, in part because there’s actually things happening. There is air of inexorability to the whole thing which really gets into its stride in the last third as we make the drive towards what is fated to happen (and we’re no longer reading rambling scenes about how swoony teenage Achilles is).
When Miller hits the predetermined narrative events, she’s good. When she’s making her own way between, she’s… less good.
For a book which treats the gods as real, there’s an awful lot of “something’s happening because the gods are displeased” conversations, followed by “here’s the solution to that” conversations. Obviously there’s no one correct version of many of the myths, but sometimes Miller takes the path of most boredom, such as the demand for the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Apollo’s appearance on the walls of Troy especially charmed me, so the omission of the gods involvement in other ways, even as a background, felt disappointing.
I am also critical of the characterisation. Odysseus is great, true, but everybody else? Eh.
Achilles lives his whole life chained to the prophecies made about him, but whatever this does to him remains unexplored. He’s just some guy. Admittedly one who is super good at everything and jolly good looking. And when we’re reading the narrative of a boy, then man, who is in love with him, I’d really have preferred to grasp the appeal.
Thetis is especially poorly done. Like her son she is chained to the pronouncements of the Fates, but here she is a pure JustNoMil. She’s such a central figure in the original myth - the Trojan war begins because of a prophecy made about her: the son of Thetis will be greater than his father, hence “marriage” to Peleus, hence somebody not doing the invitations right, hence golden apple etc etc etc
I was also unreasonably annoyed that Miller chooses to not use the one thing everybody knows about our demi-god: that he really should have invested in some foot armour. Google assures me Homer doesn’t include the story of Thetis’s attempt to make her son invulnerable and immortal, but Homer doesn’t include Achilles’ death, either. Or the romantic relationship between him and Patroclus. It felt like a massive oversight rather than a deliberate decision.
The beginning was interesting if not grippy. Then it got a bit dull. Then a bit duller. Then, by the end, it was very good indeed. I don’t rule out reading Circe, Miller’s second full length novel, but I could just as easily not. Overall?
She's managed to take everything we know of the story from the existing texts and build a world that is thoroughly absorbing and beautiful. It's a story of epic soul binding love, so beautifully rendered.
I really enjoyed how there was no modern lens put onto the story. She just tells it. Ideas and concepts that mean something to us would have been meaningless to the ancients, and behaviours we find unacceptable were normal. So some bits are difficult, there's human sacrifice, and slavery including sexual slavery, but nothing is gratuitous or too graphic.
Just read it it's beautiful.
I actually loved it. This is a beautifully-written, very descriptive book. It was easy to read, and a real page turner. I felt that I learned a lot about ancient Greece and the Trojan war. I can't fully remember the story of Achilles from school (it has been erased from my memory, along with Jason and the Argonauts, and the Minotaur) but I loved this re-telling and couldn't put the book down. The simple, striking cover is beautiful too and I would thoroughly recommend this book. A wonderful read.
Does this count as historical, or mythological, or pure fantasy? Don't care - brilliant, brilliant book. It was positively painful to read it if I'm honest but I couldn't put it down. One of those books that I felt a true and consuming sense of loss for a few days after reading it. Recommended to EVERYONE.