Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerWhy I Checked It Out: This book and its first-time author are getting a lot of buzz, including being short-listed for the Orange Prize, which recognizes outstanding female authors.

Why I Recommend It: It would be easy to label this book as an overly-romanticized retelling of “The Iliad” and dismiss it, but that would be a serious underestimation of an incredibly well-written and well-researched historical novel.

This book is the story of Achilles, the son of a king and a goddess, and the “best of the Greeks,” all told through the eyes of his beloved companion, Patroclus. The two met as young princes, grew into teens under the tutelage of Chiron and were swept into the politics of men and the machinations of gods. It is less about the Trojan War and more about the twists that led two young men to fight in a war they wanted no part of.

Miller has an effortless voice that brings to life men of staggering reputation and makes them painfully, beautifully human. She dove beneath the anger and the pride of Achilles and revealed the naiveté of a boy who wanted to be a hero. Even secondary characters, like Odysseus, are completely rendered and ready to step off the page.

“The Iliad,” which tells the story of the end of the Trojan War, is the story of Patroclus’ and Achilles’ battles and their deaths. “The Song of Achilles” is the story of their loves and their lives. When you already know how the story ends, what matters is the road there. Miller has crafted a living journey with language so striking that it deserves to be savored.

What To Read Next:
The Iliad” by Homer, a new translation by Stephen Mitchell
The War That Killed Achilles” by Caroline Alexander
Helen of Troy” by Margaret George
Ransom” by David Malouf

About Dana

Book-nerd, music-maven, movie-fanatic. Purveyor of fine book lists. Dispenser of literary trivia.
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