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I didn't expect to care much for this book as I'm not all that interested in Greek myths and heroes--but what an unexpected surprise! I am so glad that I listened to the recommendation of other LTers and decided to give The Song of Achilles a go. Once I started, it was impossible to put it aside--a rare enough occurence, but rarer still when you already know how the story will end. That can only be attirbuted to Madeline Miller's gift for storytelling. Gone are the sometimes stilted characterizations of the original (due in part, no doubt, to weak translations). While the heroes here remain monumental, they are also complex men whose thoughts and emotions are all too human. While Miller never lets us forget that Achilles himself is the son of a goddess, we also see within him the vulnerability of the human condition.
The familiar story is narrated by Patroclus, Achilles's best loved companion. The son of a king sent into exile for making a tragic but shameful mistake, Patroclus befreinds the admired Achilles at the age of twelve. Miller takes us through their upbringing at the court of Peleus and their training with the centaur Chieron and on through the Trojan War, where both eventually meet their final fates. She fleshes out not only the shadowy character of Patroclus but also Thetis, Achilles's goddess-mother, his father Peleus, Chieron, Odysseus, Menalaus, Briseis, and others; and she even manages to make the exhausting battle scenes thrilling.
Perhaps the best compliment I can give to The Song of Achilles is that it has made me want to reread The Iliad.
50 of 51 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about The Song of Achilles?
I was familiar with Greek myths- have been fascinated with them since my fifth grade teacher had lived in Greece and fueled my interest and imagination. The author does a magical job of bringing these ancient characters to life and making them human (even if they are gods or half-god).
What other book might you compare The Song of Achilles to and why?
Any Greek tragedy, this book has all the same elements-nosey gods interfering in human lives, conflict, hubris, a tragic hero....
Which scene was your favorite?
So many! I especially liked the scenes describing characters within the myths; Achilles and. Patroclus (of course), Odysseus, Agamemnon, King Menelaus, Achilles' mother-I really enjoyed her characterizations and the narrator's interpretation of their voices. The voice of Achilles' mother was deliciously villainous and hard to forget.
Who was the most memorable character of The Song of Achilles and why?
Patroclus because he wasn't as weak as people thought he was and Achilles because he becomes more that a one dimensional hero.
Any additional comments?
I have seen a few comments that describe this book as "homo porn" and "explicit". I would like to respectfully disagree. This book is set in a different culture and time-the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles has been discussed for HUNDREDS of years. This author isn't presenting some new fangled twist or a new interpretation of the story. If that makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps this story isn't for you. Any explicit sex scenes- hetero or homo- make me uncomfortable. I'd like to add that I am a middle aged, married, goes-to-church- three-times-a-week Christian. I am also someone who enjoys well written literature. The two main characters are in a committed relationship and the intimate scenes are more like the old movies where the camera pans up to an open window and the wind gently blows the curtains- things implied but not expressed. The plot is not based on these scenes nor are they gratuitous. They are important because they show the depth of their love and respect and this is really relevant towards the second half of the book and explains their actions and choices. I put off buying this book for some time because of these comments and am so thankful that I overcame my doubts and purchased this book. If you enjoy a beautifully written story (and a well narrated one as well) I encourage you to give this one a try. I'm glad I did.
24 of 24 people found this review helpful