The backstory: The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller's first novel, is on the 2012 Orange Prize longlist.
The basics: The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the life of Achilles through his best friend Patrocles.
My thoughts: I read The Iliad in high school, but it's safe to say I remember few of the details. I am by no means an expert in ancient Greece, so I was pleasantly surprised Madeline Miller made this novel both entertaining and easy to read while offering the reader insight into ancient Greece. The story begins when Patrocles is a boy, and I enjoyed seeing him grow as the novel went on. In many ways, this novel is a tender coming of age and love story; it's also set against the Trojan War. While I remembered some things about the Trojan War, I was mostly not familiar with the life of Achilles, and particularly the last half of the novel kept me in suspense.
Madeline Miller has a gift for metaphor: "Her face was like quicksilver, always racing to something new." Her writing manages to be both modern and rooted in ancient Greece. The characters and setting came to life with her words, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed this novel. I expected to enjoy it, as this tale has been told for centuries, but I anticipated it being more challenging and confusing because I was not terribly familiar with the story.
Favorite passage: "He paused, now, considering. I love this about him. No matter how many times I had asked, he answered me as if it were the first time."
The verdict: The Song of Achilles is a delightful and intriguing tale of coming of age, romance, friendship and war.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 384 pages
Publication date: March 6, 2012
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
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