The Song of Achilles

( 92 )

Overview

Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has ...

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Overview

Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Following in Mary Renault’s footsteps and adding some surefooted steps of her own, Miller debuts with a novel that combines the poetic drama of The Iliad with a 21st-century understanding of war, sex, sexual politics, and Trojan War heroism. Miller’s tale begins with Patroclus’ unhappy childhood as the disappointing son of an ambitious king. Exiled to Phthia, the 10-year-old is befriended by confident Prince Achilles. Over time their friendship blooms into love, while Achilles’ mother, the sea nymph Thetis, grows jealously resentful. Patroclus and Achilles follow Agamemnon to recapture Helen from Troy, but the siege wears heavily on Achilles, who awaits the destiny his mother has foretold and his mentor, the centaur Master Chiron, has forewarned: to become the greatest of Greek warriors. In addition to the central story of Achilles and Patroclus, Miller offers a complex study of Briseis, the trophy beauty who inspires a rift between Achilles and Agamemnon; evokes Iphigenia’s sacrifice at Aulis in one quick, brutal image; and probes relationships Homer only hinted at. With language both evocative of her predecessors and fresh, and through familiar scenes that explore new territory, this first-time novelist masterfully brings to life an imaginative yet informed vision of ancient Greece featuring divinely human gods and larger-than-life mortals. She breaks new ground retelling one of the world’s oldest stories about men in love and war, but it is the extraordinary women—Iphigenia, Briseis, and Thetis—who promise readers remarkable things to come as Miller carves out a custom-made niche in historical fiction. Agent: Barer Literary. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Patroclus is an awkward, exiled young prince; golden Achilles is the much-admired son of a sea goddess. In telling the story of their intense friendship and love, debut novelist Miller brings Homer’s ancient Greece to glorious life and offers a “masterly vision of the valor, drama, and tragedy of the Trojan War.” Her reinterpretation of The Iliad deservedly won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. (LJ 11/15/11)—Wilda Williams

(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal
Patroclus, exiled prince of ancient Greece and lover of the famous warrior Achilles, is at the center of this romantic tale, Miller's first novel, which also features many other mythical heroes, both human and divine, with the Trojan War as a backdrop. VERDICT The interference of the Greek deities in mortals' daily lives makes for a stunning mix of larger-than-life action and authentically human emotions, while stellar writing and sympathetic portrayals of complex characters breathe new life into an ancient story.
Library Journal
Scrawny ten-year-old Prince Patroclus has been sent to the court of King Peleus, where he's befriended by the king's son, Achilles. Then comes the siege of Troy. Yes, it's a modern take on The Iliad, full of love and glory; as Emma Donoghue declared, "Mary Renault lives again!"
Mary Doria Russell
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 for whom sea nymphs and centaurs are not legend but lived reality. In doing so, she will make their names known to yet another generation, deepening and enriching a tale that has been told for 3,000 years.
—The Washington Post
USA Today
“Fast, true and incredibly rewarding…A remarkable achievement.”
Time magazine
“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.”
Wall Street Journal
“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.”
Boston Globe
“Powerful, inventive, passionate, and beautifully written. ”
Washington Post
“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.”
Vogue
“A psychologically astute Iliad prelude featuring the heady, star-crossed adolescence of future heroes Patroclus and Achilles.”
O magazine
“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.”
Dallas Morning News
“Madeline Miller’s brilliant first novel...is 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.”
Washington Independent Review of Books
“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.”
The Independent
“Miller somehow (and breathtakingly so) mixes high-action commercial plotting with writing of such beautiful delicacy you sometimes have to stop and stare.”
The Guardian
“Miller’s prose is more poetic than almost any translation of Homer… This is a deeply affecting version of the Achilles story: a fully three-dimension man - a son, a father, husband and lover - now exists where a superhero previously stood and fought.”
London Times Literary Supplement
“In the tradition of Mary Renault... Miller draws on her knowledge of classical sources wisely… Well-paced, engaging and tasteful.”
Daily Mail
“Extraordinary… Beautifully descriptive and heartachingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find.”
O Magazine
"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."
J.K. Rowling
“I loved it.”
Time Magazine
"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."
Donna Tartt
“A captivating retelling of THE ILIAD and events leading up to it through the point of view of Patroclus: it’s a hard book to put down, and any classicist will be enthralled by her characterisation of the goddess Thetis, which carries the true savagery and chill of antiquity.”
Helen Simonson
“I loved this book. The language was timeless, the historical details were slipped in perfectly. I hope SONG OF ACHILLES becomes part of the high school summer reading lists alongside PENELOPIAD.”
Emma Donoghue
“Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories.”
Ann Patchett
“At once a scholar’s homage to THE ILIAD and a startlingly original work of art by an incredibly talented new novelist. Madeline Miller has given us her own fresh take on the Trojan war and its heroes. The result is a book I could not put down.”
Catherine Conybeare
“Although the details of the story are Miller’s own, the world is one that all who love the Iliad and its epigones will recognize. Reading this book recalled me to the breathless sense of the ancient-yet-present that I felt when I first fell in love with the classics.”
Zachary Mason
“THE ILIAD turns on Achilles’ pride and his relationship with Patroclus, but Homer is sparing with the personal—so much so that, though we believe in their friendship, we do not understand it. THE SONG OF ACHILLES brings light to their love. This is a beautiful book.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062060617
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/6/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 503,113
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University, and has been teaching both languages for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales for a modern audience. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 92 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(54)

4 Star

(15)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 92 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 14, 2012

    This was a wonderful book.. It was impossible to put down. Homer

    This was a wonderful book.. It was impossible to put down.
    Homer's epic is vividly retold, full of drama, gods and men, triumph and in the
    end pity and tragedy.
    For anyone interested in the Classics this is essential reading.
    It is one of the finest novels I have ever read.

    23 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    To simply put, it is a great book for a fan of Greek mythology.

    To simply put, it is a great book for a fan of Greek mythology. A nice retelling of the Iliad.
    Rarely do I re-read books or chapters within books, but this novel is an exception.

    14 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    If I could give this an extra star past "I love it!" I

    If I could give this an extra star past "I love it!" I would, because it accomplished something that I hardly ever find. It made me cry. Sobbed through the last five pages, could barely see to read the words.

    It's even more amazing to me that I cried at the ending of a story that I "knew" the ending of before I started it. But even if you know the Iliad, you don't really know this ending, because this book wasn't about the long war, or the heroes who fought in it, or the trials and adventures they faced. This book was about Achilles and Patroclus. Yes, all of the above served as the supporting cast and framework in which their story took place, but this is a love story.

    On top of that, it's told by the character we never really knew, Patroclus. His view of the war and how it plays out is nothing like those who fought in it for glory or honor or to serve the gods' ends. You get to see the human side of the story.

    And it's amazingly done. I've seen some say it's slow, and as an action-filled story of a great war and the acts of great heroes, sure, it would be. That's not the kind of book it is, though, and as a love story it is paced beautifully. The author's ability to evoke setting and atmosphere and pure, mercilessly intense emotion is the wonder of this book.

    I will admit, the seemingly random flipping back and forth from present tense to past tense for no reason I could ever figure out, was a distraction, but aside from making me pause and adjust from time to time, it was nothing compared to the power of the story.

    Yes, you know what's going to happen and how it's going to end.

    But you have no idea.

    12 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2012

    Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’: A review Huma

    Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’: A review
    Human Emotions
    ‘The song of Achilles’ is the story of the mythical Greek hero by Margaret Miller. Based on the ancient classic Iliad by Homer, the author has brought to life the myth of Achilles. It is written from the point of view of Patroclus , a minor figure in the epic, and has a very humanistic approach to the story. It explores the relationship between the two men with the background of popular myth. It tells a dramatic tale of emotions from love, sacrifice, jealousy, hatred and anger which are easy for anyone to identify with.
    The author depicts the two men as very different people who are drawn to each other. As the narrator, Patroclus describes himself as an awkward lonely young man who is not remarkable in any way. He is not loved by his parents. His father rejects him emotionally for his physical drawbacks and his mother is shown to be mentally unstable. Patroclus grows up unloved and unwanted. When he is nine he accidently kills another boy and is banished from his home to the court of Peleus, King of Phthia. Here he meets Achilles the golden boy. Achilles is everything Patroclus is not. Son of a human and a god he is perfect in every way. Called ‘The best of Greeks’ he is described as a perfect warrior and is destined to be a hero.
    Achilles singles out Patroclus and despite the differences they develop a strong friendship. Achilles is shown to be very protective of his friend who in turn worships him. As time goes on this friendship becomes stronger and they fall in love. Achilles mother, Thetis who is a goddess of the sea does not approve of this and tries to separate them. Against all odds the two remain committed to each other and overcome all the obstacles. Their love is strong, pure and withstands the tests of time.
    Meanwhile Helen the queen of Sparta is kidnapped by Trojan prince Paris setting into motion the famous Trojan war. This war is tied to Achilles’s destiny to become a hero. Reluctant at first he finally gives support to Menelus, Helen’s husband, and Agememnon . Patroclus follows him to the battlefield. Not having the disposition of a soldier he uses his knowledge of healing and medicine to tend to the wounded. As the war wears on Achilles becomes disillusioned and refuses to fight. Patroclus is worried as this may reflect badly on Achilles and might tarnish his legacy. Pretending to be Achilles he wears his armor he goes into the battlefield. He gives the ultimate sacrifice, his life, for his love. On hearing this news Achilles flies into a rage and kills Hector fulfilling his destiny. In the end the ashes of the two are intermingled giving them an eternity of togetherness.
    This story is ultimately of unconditional love and sacrifice. It is simply told but affects the reader in a very deep way. With its mythical background it shows that human emotions have not changed since time immemorial and that love is a very powerful force. It can change destinies.

    10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A touching love story with adventure On the outside, this book

    A touching love story with adventure

    On the outside, this book is a retelling of Achilles' actions in Troy; however, Miller has incorporated deeper elements to the well-known story. The Song of Achilles is a celebration of Achilles' humanity, rather than of his God-like martial skills. It is a touching love story between Achilles and his companion Patroclus. It is a story of forgiveness for human flaws. And it shows the reader that sometimes the best part of the story is forgotten in legends. Above all, it's one of those books that sucks you right in...and then leaves you breathless when it's over. Although Song of Achilles is technically fantasy, it is also a book that can be enjoyed by literary snobs and by people who don't know much about Greek mythology. I loved it.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2013

    5+Stars! This is a magnificent book! The Song of Achilles, at it

    5+Stars! This is a magnificent book! The Song of Achilles, at its very core, is a huge homage to the mastery and beauty that was, and is Homer’s work. Ms. Miller begins her novel on one basic premise – Homer wrote the truth, and life as he described it was real and without exaggeration, including each of the gods, demi-gods, heroes, villains and all those who fell somewhere in-between. As a writer, I’ve followed many a lead in order to trace a mystery upriver to its logical headwaters. And, as in this case, the conclusions at which I arrived, the answers that best fit all of the questions, may not please everyone, but they certainly hold their own in believability. Lyrically written, faithful in all its details, this book left me soaring, crying, understanding and accepting all at once. This is a book that shall remain on my shelves, to remind me forever what mastery is all about. Exceptionally well done.
    I purchased this book online and have given this review freely and without compensation of any kind.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2012

    great read!

    Great version of story from Patroclus' view.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2012

    Average

    Although I enjoy Greek mythology I was surprised by the homosexual content and would have been better without some of those details. I would not recommend this for children under the age of 16.

    5 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2012

    Awful

    Like reading the MTV version of Greek mythology. Very disappointed. Stopped after 50 pages.

    5 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    I couldn't put it down!

    Read this straight through. It's a gripping spin on a classic tale.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    The Song of Achilles

    The Song of Achilles is one of the most beautiful books that I have ever read. Narrated by Patroclus, a side character in the traditional Iliad, The Song of Achilles is the heart-wrenching story of two young men trying to live their lives as they want, despite the fact that both are destined to play a major role in the upcoming Trojan War. As their lives, and the story, evolves, Madeline Miller takes each moment and inortalizes it in words, perfectly capturing the feelings of that moment.
    The story starts when the boys are eleven, just approaching man-hood. Patroclus is a former prince, extiled to Pythia because he killed the eldest son of a noble family, never to see his home or father again. Achilles is the prince of Pythia, son of the sea goddess Thetis, and he is destined to be the greatest warrior of his age. Soon after they meet, Achilles chooses Patroclus as his companion, man at arms, and friend. The two forge an irevocable bond, becoming so close that only death can keep them apart.
    The Song of Achilles is the moving retelling of the life of one of the most famed heroes of all time. Unlike in the Iliad, Achilles and Patroclus take center stage, with the Trojan War as the background. Many of the characters are familiar, but the author portrays them with a sense of who they were, enhansing their personalitys, and balancing them against each other. The book is rich in emotion but tastfully done. Nothing is overdone, and the book has a sense of truth, it almost appears like the book is not a book at all, instead it is a window into the lives of two famous heroes for whom war, although it was their life, and the reason for their fame, was never something that they truly desired. Madeline Miller has truly created a masterpiece.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Homeric Myth Beautifully Retold

    It's said that Alexander the Great took the story of Achilles and Patroclus as the model for his lifelong love affair with Heraklion. Reading of the combination of intense friendship and erotic love as detailed in this book, it is easy to understand why. Ms. Miller's skill in introducing supernatural characters (a centaur, a sea goddess) and making them seem perfectly acceptable is testimony to her ability to recreate a world that easily accomodates both fantasy and reality. I absolutely could not put this book down, the story was so well told. Filled with action, suspense, and great tenderness, it draws the reader into an ancient world in which close friendship is a treasure not to be taken lightly. The fact that there is a sexual element only adds to the intimacy and loving sense of the relationship between the two young men. And as in so much of mythology, there is the lesson to be learned of the tragic consequences pride can bring, and the futility of human ambition. Highly recommended.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    WTF

    Great book, then he goes gay. XD it really caught me off gaurd.

    2 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    No need for words.

    By far my favorite.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    Phenomenal

    Interesting take on a classic tale. Vivid detail, character development, and realustic emotions make thids novel a must-read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2012

    Amazing read

    Couldn't put this book down.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2013

    Beautiful!!

    One of the best love stories I've ever read. I finished the book then turned right around and started to re-read it. It's that good. The story is beautifully written and reminds us of just how powerful love is.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    great

    Beautiful story,beautifully written. Read this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2013

    The best book I have ever read.

    The best book I have ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    Wonderful

    Fantastically researched, beautifully written, and hauntingly emotional.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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