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The Song of Achilles Hardcover – 30 November 2021
OVER 1.5 MILLION COPIES SOLD
A 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION, FEATURING A NEW FOREWORD BY THE AUTHOR
WINNER OF THE ORANGE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
THE INTERNATIONAL SENSATION
A SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
'Captivating' DONNA TARTT
'I loved it' J K ROWLING
'Ravishingly vivid' EMMA DONOGHUE
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
'A book I could not put down' ANN PATCHETT
'An exciting, sexy, violent Superman version of The Iliad' GUARDIAN
'Sexy, dangerous, mystical' BETTANY HUGHES
This is a deeply affecting version of the Achilles story: a fully threedimensional man - a son, a father, husband and lover - now exists where a superhero previously stood and fought ― Observer
Extraordinary ... Beautifully descriptive and heart-achingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find ― Daily Mail
I loved it -- J K ROWLING
A remarkably fresh take on one of the most familiar narratives in western literature ― The Times
Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories -- EMMA DONOGHUE
Original, clever, and in a class of its own ... an incredibly compelling and seductive read ― Independent on Sunday
If I were to give a prize for the best work of fiction I've read this year, this would be the runaway winner. As a first novel, it heralds the arrival of a major new talent ― A.N. Wilson, Reader's Digest
Original, passionate, inventive and uplifting -- JOANNA TROLLOPE
An original page-turning homage to The Iliad . Miller's prose is vividly atmospheric, retelling the siege of Troy in all its heroic devastation ― Marie Claire
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing; Special Edition - Special anniversary edition (30 November 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1526648172
- ISBN-13 : 978-1526648174
- Dimensions : 24.1 x 3.5 x 16 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 35,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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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?).
This was a great read that brought made the characters feel alive and relatable. Really looking forward to reading more from Madeline Miller, and on this era of history/folklore.
"You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature."
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.