By Madeline Miller
* ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION
Madeline Miller earned her BA and MA from Brown University in Latin and Ancient Greek and studied at the Yale School of Drama, where she focused on adapting classical literature for a modern audience. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.
THE STORY: The relationship between Achilles, the beautiful, doomed hero of the Trojan War, and Patroclus, a gangly exiled prince, is a seminal one in Greek mythology. In The Song of Achilles, which builds on the stories told in The Iliad, the two become unlikely companions and eventually lovers. Patroclus explores his childhood and his relationship with Achilles, the son of a goddess, while humanizing his lover's motivations and actions: the proud warrior fears his ultimate demise (a prophecy has dictated that Hector's fall precedes that of Achilles, so Achilles avoids facing Hector on the battlefield), but he strives for glory more than anything else. Patroclus ultimately shows Achilles not only as the selfish, egotistical hero responsible for the deaths of thousands of Greeks but also as a deeply devoted companion and lover.
Ecco. 384 pages. $25.99. ISBN: 9780062060617
Cleveland Plain Dealer *****
"A third of the way in, [Miller] eases us from a naturalistic world that feels realistic and familiar into the ancient one of gods and goddesses who mate with mortals to produce the great warrior-heroes of Homer's story. ... Informed by scholarship, her imagination blends seamlessly with incidents from The Iliad, creating a coherent whole." MARY DORIA RUSSELL
USA Today *****
"What's startling about this sharply written, cleverly reimagined, enormously promising debut novel from Madeline Miller is how fresh and moving her take on the tale is--how she has managed to bring Achilles and his companion Patroclus to life in our time without removing them from their own. ... She uses Achilles' demi-god 'otherness' to explain his flaws and behavior--and in the process makes him far more sympathetic than he has ever been." ROBERT BIANCO
Independent (UK) ****
"It does what the best novels do--it transports you to another world--as well as doing something that few novels bother to: it makes you feel incredibly clever. Of course, if we were all better read in classical history, perhaps we would not need to read a novel like this at all. The Song of Achilles just made me glad that I was ignorant enough to really enjoy it." VIV GROSKOP