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THE SONG OF ACHILLES BY MADELINE MILLER

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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REVIEWS

Judith Gillis

The novel is set in Greece, the land of myths and legends and narrated by Patroclus, a lonely boy exiled and disowned by his father. He is sent away to live in a distant kingdom where he meets Achilles. Achilles is a golden boy, the son of a king and a demigod; handsome, skilled in warfare and a superb athlete. Despite their differences the two boys become friends and in their teenage years, lovers. The Trojan war looms and the boys are sent to fight although they know that Achilles will not return as his goddess mother had foretold. The reader becomes immersed in the Ancient Greek world sailing to Troy setting up camp in Troy and bringing Homer‘s gods and heroes to life with fascinating historical detail. Patroclus and Achilles love is so movingly described. An unforgettable book.

Heather Eggleston

They say never judge a book by its cover and this is not the sort of book I would usually read but I was hooked from the first page. It is a very readable book which takes you on an exciting journey and a wonderful love story. Once I started reading, I could not stop. Thanks again Viking for sending me this book and pushing me out of my comfort zone, well worth the read!

Gayle Bartlett

I must say I haven’t read any 'classics', so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think it was beautifully written and covered the growing up and coming of age of the two young boys who grew physically and spiritually together to form a very strong, loving and loyal bond. Their relationship with each of their parents was very unusual. Especially with Achilles mother who in the end helped them both. I also learned about Greek mythology. I would not normally choose a book like this, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Susan Firth

The major focus of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is the close romantic relationship between Achilles and Patroclus with a plot that revolves around the great Trojan war. I thought I knew the tale and anticipated its tragic end but reading this book cast a new light on the characters involved. A portrayal of the cruelty of men at war and how that impacts upon others. I felt that the pace of the story was a bit erratic and lacking in flow at times with a tendency to wander but it did keep me reading to the end. A novel that captures an unseen side to the tragedy and misfortune that characterises Achille's story telling how sometimes a person can become what is not expected of him.

Nigel Green

I really enjoyed this book, although I must confess that I approached it with some trepidation, did the world really need another reiteration of the Iliad. However, I needn't have worried as this is a fresh and engaging reiteration of this classic story of pride and revenge. I was also concerned that Madelaine might be tempted to bring the book into modern times and try to explain the sometime inexplicable behaviour of the main actors, but again as in the original story both men and gods are both unpredictable and capricious. It is a tale that many will know well, so it is a huge testament to Madelaine's writing that she can still bring tension and suspense into her story. If the planet somehow manages to survive for another 1,000 years, I expect we will still be reading Homer- the question is will we still be reading Madelaine Miller? I sincerely hope so.

Ed Davies

Not being a great fan of Greek Mythology I was somewhat apprehensive when this book arrived. However, from the moment that I started reading it I was spellbound. The characters jumped off the page and the love story between Achilles and Patroclus was written with such eloquence that you felt and believed the warmth and passion between them. Having visited Greece many times it was easy to imagine the way the author described the countryside, in particular Mount Pelion when they were with Chiron it was easy to feel that you were there with them. Once again Madeline Miller’s description of the Siege of Troy was so explicit that I imagined myself there with them in their camp and during the battles. It was so obvious that honour was more important than victory to the young Achilles. This was a great read and credit to Madeline Miller who spent ten years writing it. Her passion for the subject shone through from the first to the last page.

Wendy Gilbert

I really enjoyed The Song of Achilles. It is not the sort of book I would normally choose to read. Based on Homer’s Iliad, it revisits the story of Greece’s greatest hero Achilles from the viewpoint of his lover Patroclus. Once I started it, I could not put it down. It is brilliantly written, and the characters are really well drawn and very interesting. It traces the friendship turning into a romance of the two. It also gives an insight into how life was in those long-ago times. It puts a new light on the human side of the ancient Trojan War story - epic, romantic and eventually so tragic.

Janet Dack

When I received the book I hesitated, I was reluctant to read it as I had so enjoyed Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and thought that The Song of Achilles might present an interpretation that jarred with that experience. I did not need to be concerned. The Song of Achilles is beautifully written and sensitively captures the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles from Patroclus’ point of view. I was left wanting to know more about them and the time they spent together. Knowing the outcome of Achilles’ involvement in the Trojan war adds poignancy to the development of their relationship. The ending is sublime, and l had tears in my eyes throughout the last chapter.

Judith Crowford

Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a book I would have chosen to read. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the way Madeline Miller has written this moving story of the life of Achilles through the eyes of Patroclus from the time they were boys through to manhood and the deep relationship which developed between them. I am not normally into Mythology, but the way this is written felt like it was timeless, very emotional and compelling, right through to the last page. A good read!

Jodie Cook

Thank you very much for sending me a copy of The Song of Achilles, which I really enjoyed reading. It is not a book I would have chosen for myself and is from a genre I have never read before, but I can see why it is so popular and well received by literary critics. The novel tells the compelling story of the life of Achilles from the point of view of Patroclus, giving a new perspective and partially incorporating a loose re-imagining of Homer’s Iliad. The sublimely intricate, descriptive detail really conjures the atmosphere of the world they inhabit and brings it to life, as well as subtly weaving in mythical references that classics fans may really appreciate. With its engaging, fast-paced plot, vividly imagined, gripping narrative and intriguing glimpses into Greek mythology, it would certainly be an excellent companion for a cruise around the Aegean Sea!

Dave Cole

Miller's book, The Song of Achilles, is aptly named for Miller writes prose in an almost lyrical style. The background to the novel is the Trojan War but the heart of the book is the love between Achilles and the narrator, Patroclus. It is a love that has its birth when the two are boys and develops through their teenage years. Miller includes intimate scenes but these are handled so adroitly that there is no sense of titillation. The book is character-driven and, beyond the two protagonists, there is a wealth of figures from Greek legend, all beautifully personified by Miller. This is a human story - even though it is inhabited by gods and mythical creatures - and Miller breathes life into the people from the Trojan tale. At one point, I thought that the non-human characters were distracting from the humanity of the story and was tempted to stop reading. However, Miller is so skilled that her gods and, in particular, the centaur Chiron are given such a human quality that this fantasy matters little. Descriptive passages are handled cleverly and succinctly, in a way that fills out the background detail without ever getting in the way of the narrative. To sum up, if you're looking for a straightforward historical novel, this is not it. What it is, is a rich piece of imagining that springs from mythical more than historical sources. The style is easy to read and you will find it rewarding.