Whether we regard them as pure myth or history creatively reshaped, the events of the Trojan War are part of our cultural heritage; but don't think for one moment that Homer's epic Iliad attempts to recount the ebb and flow of that ten-year conflict. Instead, as Caroline Alexander demonstrates in this book, Homer approached the field of battle and death through the moral dilemma of one man and, by doing so, raised the most essential questions about human behavior. Piercing insights about a literary classic.
Caroline Alexander's new book, The War That Killed Achilles, is not a new translation of "The Iliad"…but an attempt at a fresh reading of it, one that focuses almost solely on what this martial epic has to say about the conduct and meaning of war…[Alexander] pursues her thesis relentlessly, and brings to its pursuit many of her gifts as a narrative historian.
The New York Times
Alexander is best known as the author of The Bounty and The Endurance, well-received books about sea voyages that took place long after the Achaeans set out to avenge Helen. But she is also a trained classicist, and The War That Killed Achilles suggests a joyful re-embrace of an early love. In its bones and sinews, the book is a nobly bold, even rousing, venture, a read-through of the Iliad, from beginning to end, always with a sharp eye to half a century of revealing scholarship, by great Hellenists like Gregory Nagy, Jasper Griffin, M. L. West and many others. The book's best ideas won't be new to readers versed in this work, but it would be hard to find a faster, livelier, more compact introduction to such a great range of recent Iliadic explorations.
The New York Times Book Review
Alexander, a professional writer who has been published in Granta, The New Yorker, and National Geographic, holds a Ph.D. in classics from Columbia University. Her new book explores her deep fascination with Homer's Iliad. Essentially, she offers an extended discussion of the plot, elaborating and contextualizing it by reference to extant fragments from other epics and other ancient texts and archaeological and historical evidence. She also relates the resonances of The Iliad in the modern world, from Muhammad Ali's refusal to serve in the Vietnam War to the account of an American war widow responding to the death of her husband in Iraq. VERDICT Alexander's book is vigorous and deeply learned yet unpedantic. Highly recommended to general readers interested in a full appreciation of the power and the enduring relevance of The Iliad.—T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA\
"In her spectacular and constantly surprising new book, Caroline Alexander has taken the 'original' war book and turned it upside down, making it, as all wars are, an excruciating story of loss...The War that Killed Achilles is a triumph."
"This riveting tale of ancient wars, legendary warriors, and mythical gods is at once a great adventure story and a cautionary tale of the enduring perils of hubris and ego. Achilles' life and death are instructive lessons for all of us today."
"Spirited and provocative...a nobly bold even rousing venture...it would be hard to find a faster, livelier, more compact introduction to such a great range of recent Iliadic explorations."
-Steve Coates, The New York Times
"Penetrating...reflecting her own skills [Alexander] provides her own translation of an entire chapter...a real bonus for the reader, comparing favorably with Lattimore and Fagles."