The Song of Achilles was a book everyone seemed to rave about during 2012 and 2013. And my copy has a Donna Tartt blurb right across the top. Talk about hype. I was thrilled when my book club ladies selected it as our November read. And then I got all end-of-year slumpish, only read half in time for the discussion, and finished the rest a couple of weeks ago.
Madeline Miller’s novel is a retelling of The Iliad. To be straight with y’all, I’m not sure I’ve ever read The Iliad all the way through. I’m fairly certain I’ve read both The Odyssey and The Aeneid. But basically, the story follows Achilles through the eyes of his male companion, Patroclus, from their childhood together to adulthood and beyond.
Miller’s writing has a swift pace. For a story about a 10-year war, you never get bored which was an absolute blessing. I liked that she used Patroclus as the narrator instead of Achilles. Patroclus allows her to take more risks with historical fact since not much is known about the man beyond the parts he played in Achilles’s life and one pivotal moment in the Trojan War. One of our book club members is something of a Greek scholar and purist. She thought Miller did a superb job making the story interesting, modern, and still grounded in known fact.
I think everyone at least liked the book. Everyone seemed to have finished before the discussion occurred (except me, ha!). Personally, it’s a book that I really, really liked, but didn’t love. Mostly because I thought the love between Patroclus and Achilles was a bit too saccharine and sentimental which is a personal pet peeve. On the other hand, I think it’s nice to see a warrior and his male lover portrayed in such a sweet, endearing way. We don’t get that much, if ever. And Miller does an excellent job of tackling masculine and feminine stereotypes.
So, have you read The Iliad? Is it worth the time and effort to go back and re-familiarize myself with the ancient texts? Decisions, decisions.
14 thoughts on “The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller”
I haven’t read The Iliad but I think I”ll content myself reading bits an pieces from modern retellings like this one 🙂
I think I’m the say way! I can garner enough of an idea of the original story while not getting bogged down in the dirty, ancient details.
I haven’t read The Iliad, but thought that this book was tremendous. It must have been quite a challenge to write a retelling of an epic. Like you, I agree that she got the pace just right to keep the reader engaged.
I know so many people who truly do enjoy this book beyond all others! I’d never want to tackle such a heavy thing as retelling such a legendary beast.
I loved this book. Seriously LOVED. 🙂 I like how every reader is so different. I thought the love story was one of the best ever, lol.
Well, I know you aren’t the only one! It’s fun seeing what others love versus our own little biased bubble.
I was put off this by the hype initially. But I do have a copy on my kindle.
I think the hype played a role in my reading so it’s probably good idea to put it off until you feel free from the pressure.
I can see what you mean about the romance being a bit too sweet, but my sentimental heart loved it! It made me want to read The Iliad too, but I just never got around to it.
I don’t think I’m ever going to get around to The Iliad either, lol.
Oh wow – this is bringing back horrible memories of high school latin – where we had to read The Oydessey (and The Iliad, I think – I’m not sure b/c I try to block it out?!!) IN LATIN. I’m sure this English version and the different perspective is much better!
I took Latin in high school and college. I translated Ovid’s poetry and it nearly killed me.
I don’t think I’ve read the Iliad either, just the Odyssey. This sounds like a fun book club choice! I love both retellings and greek mythology, so I suspect I’d enjoy it a lot.
If you like retellings and the mythology, you gotta get on this one!!