Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Song of Achilles

Achilles bandaging the injured Patroclus
Madeline Miller's Orange Prize-winning novel retells the story of the Illiad through the eyes of Achilles' close companion Patroclus. Patroclus comes to the court of Achilles' father as a young boy, shamed, unnoticed and unloved, having been exiled from his own kingdom for accidentally killing another boy. He becomes Achilles' companion and then lover, following the handsome demi-god through danger and intrigue to the Trojan Wars.

I began The Song of Achilles with some trepidation. I knew very little about Greek mythology; might it all be too serious, too learned?  I needn't have worried.  It's a very readable book and the author wears her knowledge lightly. The first person fast-paced narrative quickly drew me into the story. The cast of men and gods is well drawn, especially Achilles' mother, the chilling sea goddess Thetis.

Thank you to Cornflower Books for sending me such an entertaining prize.


  1. I have this to read, and have hesitated over picking it up, afraid it might be a bit heavy for me at the moment. I'm delighted to read your very positive review!

  2. Despite the subject, it doesn't feel like a literary book. I was going to say it's more like a teen love story - but that might put you off too! ;-)

  3. I need to take this from the shelf as well. I'm teaching 'Troilus and Cressida' at the moment and this ought to complement it very well. Thanks for the push.

  4. Alex, I saw 'Troilus and Cressida' in Stratford when I was seventeen and it didn't make an ounce of sense to me!
    I think 'Achilles' would make a very good introduction to the classical world.

    1. Funnily enough, the best 'Troilus and Cressida' are set in the First World War, where it makes perfect sense. Shakespeare is actually having a real dig at the late Elizabethan court so you have to find an equivalent for us to really understand it.

    2. I can see how that setting would work Alex. The version I saw was set during the American civil war. I spent most of the play wondering which side people were on.


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