Thanks to my friend Maud Newton, I had the pleasure of reading The Song of Achilles, a first novel from Madeline Miller this summer. Maud had created a quarterly subscription service where she would send a book with her own notes and musings and this was the final shipment. To be honest, the other books she sent didn’t really rock my boat. There was a depressing one from Barthes called Mourning Diary translated from French (so I’d rather read the French original), The Colossus of New York by Colson Whitehead which I found interesting but too disjointed to really hold my interest, and A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark which I found a bit too girly for me and which I couldn’t get into either. That being said, the last instalment was this wonderful book set in Homeric times and following the story of Achilles through the eyes of his best friend Patroclus. She takes several interesting variations to the traditional stories told in traditional mythology and most importantly in the Iliad: she has the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles to have a strong romantic element and she relieves Achilles of his weak heel. I was fascinated with how Ms Miller delicately and seemingly accurately creates the world of the Greeks and the story of the two boys meeting each other and falling in love was touching and engaging. You can hear the waves lapping the shores of Troy as she describes the interminable siege and the clash of egos between Achilles and Agamemnon. I won’t spoil anything here because I really think that you will enjoy reading this book – suffice it to say that she follows the chain of events but puts loads of twists and variations that keep you turning the pages until you are disappointed when it is all over. It is particularly stunning how she succeeds in breathing so much life into a story that has been retold so very many times.
- Book Review – The Song of Achilles (thatbooklife.com)
- ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller (theliterarysisters.wordpress.com)
- The Song of Achilles: Homer’s ownership of his hero (theguardian.com)
- August’s Reading group: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (theguardian.com)