Thursday, September 20, 2012

Historical Fiction: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Publisher: Ecco
Date: September 2011
Format: hardback
Source: purchased
Read: because the author came to speak to my Classical Mythology class
Pages: 370

Exiled to Phthia, the awkward young prince Patroclus becomes the close companion of Achilles, the son of a mortal and a goddess. Achilles is strong, the best warrior among the Greeks, while Patroclus prefers the art of healing. When Helen of Sparta is taken to Troy and war breaks out, both men are pulled along the path of fate, a path that will greatly test their bond and honor for the next ten years and end with great sacrifices.

From my previous post, you will know that I didn't particularly enjoy reading The Iliad. The Song of Achilles was, therefore, an excellent companion book to read along with the original epic. Miller develops Achilles and Patroclus's adolescence wonderfully, delving further into their relationship as well as the prophecies and complexities surrounding their eventual involvement in the Trojan War. She also provides a historical depth to the behaviors and attitudes of the Greeks that completely jives with the background we were given in the mythology course. Considering how hard I found it to concentrate on The Iliad, I found this novel to provide an emotional connection to the epic; it made the original story much more human to me. The Song of Achilles focuses not on the usual great heroic deeds and divine shenanigans of Homer's work, but instead on the oft-neglected but completely human social and emotional intricacies and issues faced by the warriors as they try to navigate fate, honor, and relationships during a tumultuous time.


  1. I loved this book - as you mentioned, there's a good emotional connection with the characters. I was so pleased to see it win the Orange Prize.

  2. I'm really excited to read this book! I've heard lots of good things!