Best Literature & Fiction
The legend begins…
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must 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 Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.
Granted it’s been so long ago that I read Homer’s Illiad that all I remember is the opportunity for naps. But here we are with the classic being brought into the modern world told romantically through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles long term companion. The POV as told by Patroclus weaves the intimate story between Homer’s “gentle” character, who is banished by his father to Peleus, father of Achilles, following the unfortunate death of another child purely by accident at his hands. In this retelling, Patroclus and Achilles gradually bond leading to a life-long intimate and devoted relationship.
While the Illiad concentrates on the Troy war with which Greece becomes engaged following the kidnap of Helen of Sparta, Miller’s novel chooses to tell the story of the two young men; one, the most storied and gifted warrior of ancient Greece, the son of Thetis, a goddess.
Thetis never accepts Patroclus and often tries unsuccessfully to separate them. Achilles develops a devoted intellectual relationship with a slave girl that leads to Achilles’ refusal to fight for the Greeks when Agamemnon steals her away. What Patroclus lacks as a warrior, however, he provides as a healer when the Greeks converge on Troy to rescue Helen. Many years into the fight, he will eventually take up a sword to protect Achilles who is still refusing to fight. Patroclus vows to save Achilles’ reputation.
He’ll die at the hands of Hector of Troy who spurs an enraged Achilles to engage and kill Hector in return only to be killed himself by the legendary arrow from Paris to his unprotected heel. While there is certainly sufficient material regarding the war with Troy, you aren’t buried in battles (though there are some protracted descriptions of combat) and the real story behind the conflict remains the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus.
This is only a part of the Trojan War fable that fired the imagination made stronger by the mythological Trojan horse. There is still debate that it actually happened against evidence of a possible site. Fascinating tale from the 12th or 13th century BCE made famous by Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey. And who’s to say this version might not have been any more or less true than the other?
It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. The narrator does a good job with ancient names and pronunciations as well as provides depth and emotion to the atmosphere.
Do these classics hold an attraction for you as well? Gods and Goddesses, powerful warriors, and perceived disrespect starting wars? Oh, wait—guess that’s still happening.
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Listening Length: 11 hrs 15 mins
Narrator: Frazer Douglas
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Song of Achilles [Amazon]
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars
The Author: Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel. Find Ms Miller at http://www.madelinemiller.com/.
©2022 V Williams