The Song of Achilles: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Ecco; 37696th edition
  • Published : 28 Aug 2012
  • Pages : 416
  • ISBN-10 : 0062060627
  • ISBN-13 : 9780062060624
  • Language : English

The Song of Achilles: A Novel

A New York Times Bestseller

"At once a scholar's homage to The Iliad and startlingly original work of art….A book I could not put down." -Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

A thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War from the bestselling author of Circe

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.

"Mary Renault lives again!"  -Emma Donoghue, author of Room

Editorial Reviews

"I loved it." -- J.K. Rowling

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

"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

"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

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

"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

"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

"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

"Madeline Miller's brilliant first 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

"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

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

"[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

"Masterfully brings to life an imaginative yet informed vision of ancient Greece featu...

Readers Top Reviews

Phyllis May
This is one of my favourite books of all time. I've actually got quite a few copies and just purchased the new classic cover release because it's beautiful. This story is a re-telling and very readable version of a classic myth from the Illiad. Miller's prose breathes life and very relatable romance into this myth in a way that will grip you. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who loves greek myths, to people studying classics and to people who ever wondered how long men have been loving men. Its a real work of art and one that's so easy to read again and again. It's also a great time to re-read miller because she's about to release her second book (FINALLY). Also Miller knows what she's talking about and her work is heavily researched and intelligent so for all those hoping it's not a sloppy mistelling of a Greek myth- it's absolutely not. I wish i could read it for the first time again.
Trish Pea
I didn't choose to read this book. It was chosen for me as a book-club read. I don't like books about mythology (school in the 1960s put me off for life.) Or ancient history, or wars in any period of history, apart from maybe the two world wars. So, I bought this book with trepidation, not knowing what to expect. I didn't quite believe all the good reviews, and thought I would hate it. 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.
A very short review, I'm afraid. Not worthy of this book. 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.
TheoH J Mac
I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with the Iliad because it’s been out a while, so, Spoilers, I guess? 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...
Gabby M
For better or for worse, the Homeric epics are a bedrock part of the Western literary canon. Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles looks at The Iliad from a fresh perspective: that of Patroclus, Achilles' closest companion. Since this is a retelling of a classic story (a genre to which I am predisposed), we already know how it's going to play out: Agamemnon will steal a slave girl claimed by Achilles, leading to the hero refusing to fight for the Greeks, leading to Patroclus donning his armor and being slain by Hector of Troy, leading to Achilles killing Hector and dragging him around the walls of his city, only to be killed himself by an arrow from Hector's brother Paris. What's different is what comes before and between. As most of us know, it was not uncommon in Ancient Greek life for older men to have sexual relationships with younger men. Homosexual relationships between men of the same age, however, were rarer. When I was taught The Iliad, even in college, the bond between Patroclus and Achilles was usually described as just a deep friendship (lip service was paid to the idea they could have been lovers but it was never taught as being the more persuasive interpretation). Miller's novel, however, roots itself in the alternate interpretation: she presents us with Achilles, the most gifted warrior in Greece, as a man in a loving and stable lifelong relationship with Patroclus. It would actually be more accurate to say she presents us with Patroclus as the romantic partner of Achilles: the story belongs to Patroclus, it is told through his eyes. Patroclus as created by Miller is a gentle soul, a disappointment to his aggressive father, who is banished when he kills another child purely by accident. He is sent to Peleus, father of Achilles, to be fostered, and is chosen by Achilles of all the young men at court to be his companion. Their relationship only gradually becomes romantic, much to the disgust of Achilles' river goddess mother, Thetis. She conspires more than once to break the couple apart, but their love is too strong and they remain together until the end. Miller explains Achilles' rage over the theft of his slave girl as being not about being deprived of a lover, but as being disrespected as the greatest soldier in the army by having his rightfully-claimed prize taken away. I found it a much more enjoyable take on the story than the original. Miller really gets the time to develop Patroclus and Achilles as characters in depicting them from boyhood all the way through adulthood. She paints a very devoted relationship between them: though both briefly experiment with sex with women, they never stray from each other and Achilles refuses to leave Patroclus despite strong maternal pressure to do so. Since Miller's Patroclus isn't a skilled or enthusiastic warrior and instead serves the Greek contingent at Troy as a...