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The Song of Achilles

by

The Song of Achilles Cover

 

Awards

2012 Orange Prize Winner

Staff Pick

The Song of Achilles revisits the sprawling story of the Trojan War but focuses on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. It is a love story so intensely searing, the brutal 10-year Trojan War somehow takes a backseat: the love they share means more than Helen, the war, and all of Greece put together. While Patroclus learns that he is much stronger than he ever imagined, Achilles learns, the hard way, about pride. Miller's take on this slice of Greek history is a passionate view of love amid disaster.
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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)

Review:

"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

Review:

"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 Penelopaid." Helen Simonson, bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"In the tradition of Mary Renault...Miller draws on her knowledge of classical sources wisely....Well-paced, engaging and tasteful." London Times Literary Supplement

Review:

"Extraordinary....Beautifully descriptive and heartachingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find." Daily Mail

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

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

Review:

"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

Review:

"[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

Review:

"A psychologically astute Iliad prelude featuring the heady, star-crossed adolescence of future heroes Patroclus and Achilles." Vogue

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"Powerful, inventive, passionate, and beautifully written." Boston Globe

Review:

"Fast, true and incredibly rewarding....A remarkable achievement." USA Today

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Synopsis:

"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.

About the Author

Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, has bachelor's and master's degrees in Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University, and has been teaching both languages for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales for a modern audience. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 8 comments:

MadameO, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by MadameO)
Stunningly beautiful, Miller's language at times takes one's breath away. I’m marveling at the infusion of love and tenderness into a story of war and mayhem and the interference of feckless gods. May be too much of a cuirass-ripper for some, but the humanity of the story overrode that for me.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Ember, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Ember)
This is a lyrical, brilliant book, all the more impressive for being a debut novel. Miller is a master of making even the simplest moments compelling and lovely, and her take on some of the most important scenes from the Iliad are even more compelling.

The Song of Achilles is told from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles' lover and constant companion, beginning with Patroclus's childhood. He is an unusual main character in that he rarely speaks about his own strengths at all, preferring to cast the poorest possible light on himself in favor of praising Achilles. The two grow up together, learn together, and finally, inevitably, go to war together. Miller does an excellent job of tempering your knowledge of what will happen with a real joy in the moments leading up to that foreseen climax, filling her characters with just the right amounts of doubt and surety. There is a real pleasure in the unexpected details--the time Achilles and Patroclus spend with each other, the quieter interactions with other characters, the setting, and the way that the supernatural features. The gods are real and present, but this is emphatically about the humans in this war.

For those who know the story, don't worry, the issue with the ending is expertly resolved so that we see the fates of both main characters.

My only problem with this book is that the romance between Achilles and Patroclus is presented to the rest of the characters in a very 21st century way. It is moving and profound--but not at all historically accurate. Achilles and Patroclus were almost certainly lovers, and almost certainly very few people would have thought it strange, let alone wrong. There were probably many pairs of male lovers within the Greek camp. I don't know if this was a decision of the author or the editor/publisher, so I can't get too upset, but this modern retelling does a disservice to the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks had a very different understanding of sex and sexuality, and Miller simplifies too much. It's the only reason I've marked The Song of Achilles down.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Ember, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Ember)
This is a lyrical, brilliant book, all the more impressive for being a debut novel. Miller is a master of making even the simplest moments compelling and lovely, and her take on some of the most important scenes from the Iliad are even more compelling.

The Song of Achilles is told from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles' lover and constant companion, beginning with Patroclus's childhood. He is an unusual main character in that he rarely speaks about his own strengths at all, preferring to cast the poorest possible light on himself in favor of praising Achilles. The two grow up together, learn together, and finally, inevitably, go to war together. Miller does an excellent job of tempering your knowledge of what will happen with a real joy in the moments leading up to that foreseen climax, filling her characters with just the right amounts of doubt and surety. There is a real pleasure in the unexpected details--the time Achilles and Patroclus spend with each other, the quieter interactions with other characters, the setting, and the way that the supernatural features. The gods are real and present, but this is emphatically about the humans in this war.

For those who know the story, don't worry, the issue with the ending is expertly resolved so that we see the fates of both main characters.

My only problem with this book is that the romance between Achilles and Patroclus is presented to the rest of the characters in a very 21st century way. It is moving and profound--but not at all historically accurate. Achilles and Patroclus were almost certainly lovers, and almost certainly very few people would have thought it strange, let alone wrong. There were probably many pairs of male lovers within the Greek camp. I don't know if this was a decision of the author or the editor/publisher, so I can't get too upset, but this modern retelling does a disservice to the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks had a very different understanding of sex and sexuality, and Miller simplifies too much. It's the only reason I've marked The Song of Achilles down.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 8 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780062060624
Author:
Miller, Madeline
Publisher:
Ecco Press
Subject:
Historical
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Publication Date:
20120831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
8 x 5.3125 x 0.864865 in 10.4 oz

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The Song of Achilles New Trade Paper
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Product details 416 pages Ecco Press - English 9780062060624 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

The Song of Achilles revisits the sprawling story of the Trojan War but focuses on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. It is a love story so intensely searing, the brutal 10-year Trojan War somehow takes a backseat: the love they share means more than Helen, the war, and all of Greece put together. While Patroclus learns that he is much stronger than he ever imagined, Achilles learns, the hard way, about pride. Miller's take on this slice of Greek history is a passionate view of love amid disaster.

"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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 Penelopaid."
"Review" by , "Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "In the tradition of Mary Renault...Miller draws on her knowledge of classical sources wisely....Well-paced, engaging and tasteful."
"Review" by , "Extraordinary....Beautifully descriptive and heartachingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Miller somehow (and breathtakingly so) mixes high-action commercial plotting with writing of such beautiful delicacy you sometimes have to stop and stare."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "A psychologically astute Iliad prelude featuring the heady, star-crossed adolescence of future heroes Patroclus and Achilles."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "Powerful, inventive, passionate, and beautifully written."
"Review" by , "Fast, true and incredibly rewarding....A remarkable achievement."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , "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.
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