1. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    The Song of Achilles

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Jupie, Feb 4, 2017.

    Has anyone read this book by Madeline Miller?

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a modern take on the Trojan war but from the point of view of Patroclus and focuses on his relationship with Achilles. In this interpretation they are lovers and she does show this very well. It's refreshing to see a homosexual relationship explored as I have never read a romance like this before and it was quite moving.

    There's plenty of action and adventure to be had here too and she sets the scene nicely. You do feel like you are getting into a glimpse into the Iliad , from which it is based. Some purists will say that this doesn't hold a candle to Homer's work and that's fine but it's not meant to be an inferior and contemporary version of the original story, but rather inspired and influenced instead. I don't think you should go into this comparing it to the classics but appreciating it for what it is instead, and then hopefully you'll find there's much to like from this story.

    I enjoyed the portrayal of the characters, especially Odysseus and of course Achilles. How he grows from boy to man is fascinating and I like that we see the softer, more sensitive version of his character as well as the warrior that he is known for. I was wondering if anyone has read it? It won the Orange Prize in 2012 and it is her debut novel. I recommend a read.
     
  2. edamame

    edamame Contributor Contributor

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    I read it last year and loved it. I picked it up from the library because it reminded me of Mary Renault's works about Alexander the Great and his relationship with Hephaestion. I suspect Miller was a Renault reader, too.
     
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  3. RachHP

    RachHP Senior Member

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    I've read the book and pushed it into the arms of several of my friends because it's wonderful!
    I can't add much more to your description, but let me concur: beautiful depiction of a budding relationship, a new slant on a classic character and considering the battle is so iconic, I think it was a brilliant depiction (far outstripping the film versions I've seen).
     
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  4. Samunderthelights

    Samunderthelights Active Member

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    It's one of my favourite books, so it's great to see that I'm not the only one who likes it so much! And for me it was the same; it reminded me of Mary Renault's books about Alexander The Great and Hephaestion. I loved those books, but I found The Song Of Achilles even better. The characters are great, the story is great, it is easy to read. It is a little bit cheesy sometimes, and normally I hate cheesy lines like 'He smiled, and his face was like the sun'. But in this case, I didn't mind it one bit.
    I usually only read books once, but I've read this one three times already. And I am sure I will read it again. :-D
    (And it is a thousand times better than the movie Troy.) :dry:
     
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  5. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    I'm glad you posted because I forgot to reply to the comments! I loved the whole feel and tone of the book and enjoyed the simplicity of the language. In lesser hands it could well have been cheesy, but it got across Patroclus' adoration and love for Achilles really well and also helped me to imagine the way he spoke. The formal language worked well and helped me to imagine this world of ancient Greece while staying true to her own vision.

    You've all mentioned Renault and I picked out her Alexander books when I saw that it had been a big influence. I only read the first but sadly I just couldn't get into it. I found it very challenging to read and even got confused over POV a couple of times which never usually happens. I found the story unfocused and sometimes lacking in emotion.. I can see Renault knows her mythology and history and that she's well researched, but I just didn't feel attached to any of the characters. She clearly loves Alexander but I felt like it wasn't intimate enough and it didn't seem like a great piece of storytelling. I found Philip quite interesting, and enjoyed his portrayal, but it wasn't enough to make me go on to read book two.

    That's just me, though. Looks like you all enjoyed it and that's the main thing. It's a classic for a reason, but I'll have to find another writer in Greek mythology I guess. That said, I know Madeline Miller is bringing another book out (Circes) next year, so I'm looking forward to that!

    Put simply, the story of Patroclus and Achilles is one of the most touching I've ever read. It's funny, I've only read a handful of stories about homosexuality but whenever I do the love is always very tender and powerful. I think it's because these books often show their sacrifices and there's a forbidden element to their love that makes it all the more passionate and moving.
     
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  6. Samunderthelights

    Samunderthelights Active Member

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    I do get what you mean. But I think maybe it has to do with the fact that the first book was written almost fifty years ago, so the style is just very different. I think maybe she was a bit more restricted in what she could write. I don't think a story like The Song Of Achilles would be the way it is now, if it was written back in those days. :superthink:
    But having said that, I thought the second Alexander book was the best. The third one, I didn't really like.

    Looking forward to that one as well!
     
  7. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    That's a good point about the content and subject of the book being harder to write about in the late 60s / early 70s. I appreciate that and understand its repressive tone, and I agree a book like 'Song of Achilles' would probably not have been written. As for the writing style I didn't mind it, I enjoy older books as well as new, and I could see she had a gift for language but somehow it wasn't compelling enough. Too many semi-colons as well, but I'll let her off for that. Just didn't seem to hit the right note for me.

    Yeah, Circes will be good. We'll see a lot more of Odysseus, who really intrigued me in the novel. He's wonderfully ambiguous, capable of cunning and betrayal but also has a conscience (I love it when he feels guilty and does one last thing for Patroclus at the end).
     
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