Tuesday, April 3, 2012

book review: Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Song of Achilles from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)


As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

18 comments:

  1. I'm glad you say this one would work for someone not that familiar with the Trojan war because I'm going to be reading it soon and I know nothing about it!

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    1. Sam--I thought I didn't know anything, but was surprised how much seemed vaguely familiar once I was reading it!

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  2. Our opinions seem to be matching more than usual - we have matching opinions on this one too. I thought this was a good, entertaining read, but I'd be surprised to see it on the shortlist.

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    1. We are agreeing more than usual! I'd be surprised to see it make the shortlist too, but I did enjoy it more than several on the longlist.

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  3. I just oredered this one for my son's Easter basket because he had been looking at it for some time, and asking me for it. I will probably snag it when he's done. It sounds like a great read, and I have read nothing but good things about it so far. Great review today!

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    1. I can't wait to hear your thoughts, Zibilee! I hope your son enjoys it too!

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  4. I have had no interest in this book because I can't remember anything about The Iliad either. We read it in jr. high and for all I remember I may as well just not have read it. But it sounds like this author does a great job of making the book accessible anyway!

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    1. Jenny--I was so pleased with how accessible Miller made it. I'd be curious to see what those who are more familiar with The Iliad thought too.

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  5. It's good to know you liked this one. It was one of those that I was nervous about because while I like historical fiction, sometimes those that are real old are hard for me but this sounds good!

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    1. Amused--I'm the same way! The really old stuff can scare me, but I really enjoyed this one!

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  6. This book sounds a lot like Mary Renault's 1958 novel The King Must Die which is the novelization of the Theseus myth. I love these sorts of novels. I'll keep an eye out for this one.

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    1. Ryan--thanks for the tip on Renault. I've added it to my list. I also want to explore the Canongate Myth series.

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  7. This is the first review I've seen of this book and you sold me on it. Adding this one to my wish list.

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    1. Bitsy--I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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  8. Sounds like my cup of tea. I'm considering listening to it in audio. Do you think it would work?

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    1. Alex--I'm not a fan of audio in general, but I think it would be good. I found myself not pronouncing the names because I didn't know how to, so for that alone it would be illuminating!

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  9. Yay! I'm glad you liked it, too. It's one of my favorites so far for the year.

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    1. I'm so glad to have read it. It surprised me in good ways, and I'm sure it will stick with me for a long time!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!