The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

5 stars5/5

The Song of Achilles is the first book that I have read in recent months that has really transported me to another world. I was so
wrapped up in the story, that I was thinking about it frequently in between picking up my Kindle.

The Song of Achilles

Bloomsbury, 2012 Kindle Edition, 368 pages – book group choice

That might simply make you question my reading choices, however recently I have read books that were well written, or interesting, but they haven’t inspired as much pleasure in reading as Madeline Miller’s book did. It takes a particular quality of writing to really whisk me away. I can count probably on my fingers those that have. Examples, off the top of my head would be Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Middlesex, The Night Circus and of course Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca or Jamaica Inn.

I loved reading Greek myths as a child and studied classics at school so it would be fair to say that I’m pre-disposed to enjoy this kind of novel. I do believe though, that it is accessible to anyone and might even inspire an interest in mythology in readers who haven’t read stories of this kind. Essentially it is simply a story of love and of war…but mainly of love.

The quality of Madeline Miller’s storytelling is the thing that really stands out for me. She often embellishes and intrigues the reader with fleeting references to other greek heroes, gods and goddesses, but never lets detail get in the way of the flow of the tale. Her descriptions are often lush and sensual, such as Patroclus, watches Achilles eating ripe figs:

“…the dark flesh parting to pink seeds under his teeth. The fruit was perfectly ripe, the juice brimming”.

I cared about her characters – tenacious Briseis, kind Patroclus with his constant but gentle love for Achilles – and enjoyed the sparring between the proud warriors.

I don’t know accurate it is from a scholarly perspective and I know
Miller takes some liberty with the stories (which she freely admits),
but she has obviously taken care to really research before elaborating
on the original tales. Just like in The Red Tent, the author has taken a
fleeting piece of the original and then expanded it, adding her own
creative flourish – you could say, in Homeric style.

A wonderful novel, and an absolute pleasure to read.

Chasing Bawa and Savidge Reads and Farmlanebooks also loved this novel if you want to find out what they thought!

12 responses to “The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

  1. This is probably my favourite book of the year so far. I keep recommending it to everyone!

  2. another fan of this I m slowly getting pulled towards trying this one at some point ,all the best stu

  3. I absolutely loved this book too! I’ve bought it for two people so far as birthday presents – they WILL read it! So beautifully written. I can’t wait til she writes something else!

  4. I also read this recently. As there was so much hype about it I convinced myself I would’t like it, but was completely taken with the whole romance of it. A “nice” book you can recommend to almost anyone and they are likely to enjoy it.

  5. I’m hoping to get round to reading it sometime as I too love mythology. I like that she’s been honest about the liberties taken.

  6. I have a signed copy when the author came to one of my local libraries back in September.

    I liked the Greek myths at school but as of yet not picked this up to read! I will do I know I will, but when is the big question?

  7. Like Sakura, this is one of my favorites of 2012. It is utterly engrossing, romantic and fascinating. I read somewhere that Miller’s next book will focus on the story of Penelope – I can’t wait!

  8. sounds great! I didn’t know the book, but I also like Greek myths and novels with historical characters.
    It’s wonderful when you find a book and you are involved in the story!

  9. One of my absolute faves of the year, only pipped by The Snowchild :) This was the perfect book to take on holiday camping with us as it inevitably rained – sleeping bag, cider and Madeleine Miller make for cosy companions!

  10. Pingback: Orange Reading: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | Iris on Books

  11. Definitely one of my favourite books of the year and one that I like you even more than I did (if that is possible) for loving too. I came at the book from a rather negative angle, my mother being a classics teacher and having too much of it too young, but I was hooked.

  12. I completely that this book is wonderful. It was one of my favourite books last year and as more time that passes and it stays with me I realise it’s shaping up as one of my favourites ever. Hopefully that won’t make me scared to re-read it!

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