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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  1,591 ratings  ·  279 reviews
From the wells of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son, Hector, being dragged behind Achilles' chariot in the Greek camp. Maddened by grief at the death of his friend, Patroclus, Achilles refuses to give up Hector's body, but King Priam is convinced there must be a way of reclaiming the body - of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against old, and of forc ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published 2010 by Random House (first published 2009)
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Kathy Turner
“We are mortals, not gods. We die. Death is in our nature. Without that fee paid in advance, the world does not come to us” (p. 184).
David Malouf in Ransom (2009) re-tells Homer’s story of Priam’s ransom of the body of his son Hector from Achilles. While the Classical world focussed on the role of fate in the lives of Kings and heroes; Malouf writes of the dual role of fate and chance. The re-telling is thus addressed to us, who have forgotten perhaps both the role of fate and that of chance, so
Jan 21, 2013 Terence rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Homer, fans of modern mythic reinterpretations
Recommended to Terence by: Daniel Mendelsohn
Shelves: mythologies
I’ve never liked Achilles but the more times I read The Iliad and related material, the more I’ve come to appreciate the difficulties he faced. Do you act in the world and risk failure or the betrayal of everything you hold true? Or do you – in effect – keep your head down and hope the gods take no notice of you? (I can’t buy into the Bronze Age warrior ethic of Homer nor its modern equivalent but I can understand that fear of acting, and in that sense I have a deep sympathy for Achilles.) Even ...more
Mar 02, 2010 Teresa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Lisa Hill
A beautiful story that is both simple and complex. Malouf takes a portion of a well-known ancient Greek tale and fleshes it out in order to address what is basic about humanity: what it means to be mortal, to be a father, to be able to empathize with others, to be a man in the world. It also comments on what leads to that empathy: the vivid, detailed storytelling from someone seemingly simple of things seemingly mundane that ends up leaving you, the listener, the one enriched.
Christopher H.
This is without a doubt one of the best books I've read in a while. It was so damned good that I turned around and read it again as soon as I had finished reading it the first time. It doesn't take long to read, at just over 200 pages, but it packs a big wallop. Ransom, published in 2009, is Australian poet and author David Malouf's most recent offering after nearly ten years; and I have to say that it was well worth the wait.

Malouf's novel takes as its inspiration a series of events that occur
Judith Starkston
Ransom focuses on the moment in the Iliad when King Priam retrieves his son Hector’s body from Achilles. In twenty years of teaching that part of the epic, I never survived a class without having to wipe away tears. For me, it is the single most revealing moment in literature about what it means to be human. Nothing tops it. To choose that moment for a book’s primary subject! —audacious and, it turns out, wise.

As far as plot or story goes, it’s as simple a book as could be. A grieving father ig
Gorgeous retelling of the poignant episode in the Iliad of Priam's seeking the body of his son, Hector, from Achilles. The plot device of a simple carter, Somax, who drives Priam to the Greek camp is added. This serves to make Priam a more human, accessible character. Novel explores simple joys, grief, sorrow and emotional pain in all classes of characters and shows these feelings are universal; on a rest stop, the carter reveals his family life and death of his own son while trying to help anot ...more
Vit Babenco
“Often, in the lapse of light in the chamber where he sits nodding, or in a leisure hour beside the fishpond in his garden, one or other of the gods will materialise, jelly-like, out of the radiant vacancy. An old, dreamlike passivity in him that he no longer finds it necessary to resist will dissolve the boundary between what is solid and tangible in the world around him – mulberry leaves afloat on their shadows, the knobbly extrusions on the trunk of a pine – and the weightless medium in which ...more
Laura Leaney
This novel is a new telling of a very small section of Homer's "Iliad," the one where King Priam of Troy infiltrates the camp of Achilles to plead (offer ransom) for the body of his son Hector. This is pretty much all the action of the novel - but Malouf gives an elegiac philosophical grandeur to the scene that is absolutely beautiful. We are now privy to the thoughts of Priam and Achilles, and the complexity of both men - as well as the nuances of their pain and sadnesses - make for compelling ...more
Mar 22, 2010 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the Trojan War, Greek mythology, Achilles, or historical fiction
Recommended to Mike by: NYTimes Book Review
Malouf has created a masterpiece study on loss. Focusing on King Priam of Troy and Achilles victory over Priam's eldest son, Hector, Malouf never mentions the origins of the Trojan War. Paris and Helen of Troy have no place in this story. This is a story about fatherhood, the meaning of it, and the loss of a child seen through not only the eyes of Priam and his Queen, Hecuba, but also through the eyes of a commoner, Somax, who is called upon to drive Priam to Achilles' camp in an attempt to rans ...more
Okay, I'm being stingy. This is a lovely book. As one reviewer aptly noted, Malouf bears comparison to the Greek playwrights, especially Euripides, who mined the blank spaces in Homer and created new rich narratives fully respectful of their source. No doubt, this story of fathers brought low and humanized by the mortality of their sons, speaks more to me now than when I was only a son. The ancients, Homer included, don't linger in the humble emotions that modern audiences crave. So that's where ...more
A quick read, this novel is an interesting reimagining of part of the Trojan War story, where King Priam begs Achilles for the body of his son Hector. The war is taken for granted: its cause is not discussed, and Paris is briefly mentioned only once or twice, Helen not at all. Though the perspective alternates between Achilles' and Priam's, the voice throughout is controlled and thoughtful, more believable as an old king's than a hotheaded young warrior's. Priam's transformation as a character i ...more
Keith Currie
The Price Paid

There are those who love this short novel, and there are those who say ‘Might as well read the Iliad’. Does Malouf add anything to Homer in his ‘re-imagining’ of Iliad Book 24?

For anyone who knows the Iliad the opening and theme of Ransom present no problems: Achilles has killed Hector in revenge for his killing Patroclus, Achilles’ closest companion; Achilles causes daily abuse to the corpse of Hector, but each night the gods restore the body. Achilles has had his revenge but he
I just don't know how this could have been better at being what it is. Lush yet spare, lyrical yet amusing, a fresh take on the oldest of tales... Grief-stricken Priam goes once again, a supplicant to grief-stricken Achilles, to ransom the defiled body of his heroic son Hector. It's a brilliant meditation on fathers and sons, kings and commoners, gods and men, suffused with the otherworldly gillyflower-scented and lyre-accompanied surrealness of a time when gods intermingled with humanity.

And I
Malouf's novel takes as its inspiration a series of events that occur near the end of Homer's The Iliad: the death of Achilles' friend Patrocolus (Book 16), Achilles' killing of Hector (Book 22), the funeral of Patroclus (Book 23), and Priam's late-night visit to Achilles to beg for the return of his son's body (Book 24).

This compact novel, with its Homericly noble prose, is surprsingly powerful. It is not the story of the gods and goddesses, but the story of humans and human failings and feelin
Ransom is a retelling of part of The Iliad, the part after Achilles kills Hector when Priam, mourning his son’s death and anticipating the brutal conquest of his city, must decide how to reconcile a king’s duty with that of a father’s. Malouf, a prize-winning Australian novelist, does a superb job of recreating the mythic world of the heroes and gods of pre-historic Greece while at the same time humanizing the super-sized men and women of Troy and its besiegers.

Priam and an elderly cart man make
Michelle Kathryn
I'll just straight up say that I expected to hate this novel. I didn't really like the context of it - with Troy, Achilles, Trojan War, warrior medieval stuff - you get the picture. Also, I think a part of me wanted to dislike it purely because it was one of the books we had to read for English class. And I very rarely, or ever, like the novels prescribed by the English teachers. So as you can see, my mission to hate this book began even before reading the first line of the novel.

Yeah.. that m
Anyone who knows me would know I’d love this book. Homer is the cornerstone of my idea of literature, perhaps of being a person. I’ve long admired the fine Australian writer David Maloof. In the Iliad after Achilles has killed Hector and is desecrating his corpse daily, his father, Priam, loads a wagon with treasure and accompanied only by a herald drives alone into the Greek camp and begs the return of his son’s body for appropriate burial. Achilles is moved to compassion. This is Maloof’s stor ...more
Chuck Lowry
Nov 26, 2014 Chuck Lowry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chuck by: My friends at Faulkner House
Most people fasten on this book as an interesting retelling of the story of the combat of Achilles and Hector and the ransoming of Hector's body by his father King Priam. I was not so crazy about it from that perspective; I prefer Homer and from the point of view of simple narrative, I did not see anything in here that was better than Homer's account in The Iliad. What impressed me about this book was something entirely different, the humanizing, almost the contextualization of a king. We see Pr ...more
What a wonderful book! David Malouf is more well-known for his novels than his poetry, but it is as a poet he started his literary life, and a poet he remains, as this gem of a novel shows. The story is based on the section of the Iliad in which Patroclus is killed, Achilles kills Hector and drags his body before the walls of Troy, and ends when Priam reclaims Hector's body from Achilles.

This book though, is about human feeling - rage, grief, and love. There is a strong undercurrent in the book
I think I'm weirdly particular with books that revisit greek mythology - I need the author to strike a particular tone, touch on particular themes etc and if that isn't done, I react very negatively. With this book, I did enjoy the first few pages with Achilles and I didn't mind the Heracles/Priam backstory, otherwise, it wasn't my thing. The emphasis on free will, the extended discussions that Priam holds with his family, the emphasis placed on being royal, making Achilles have fatherly inclina ...more
Christopher Reeves
Smell The Book Review

9 out of 10

David Malouf is a well-established author and I doubt he needs my help at this point, but I was so impressed with his book that I wanted to review it here for anyone else interested in books related to Homer's works.

I have always been a huge fan of "The Iliad" and all the books it inspired. As with other large "epics" like this there are sometimes short episodes or interactions between characters that are not always fully explained or obvious to the reader. Why do
I delved into this book really excited, but came out feeling quite let down. However, I must be perfectly honest and admit that there is a high chance that I only felt this way because of how devoted I am to Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles.

I think that it is important to point out that Ransom revolves more around Priam's world rather than Achilles'. This is understandable once you've finished the book and gathered its main theme. Having said that, if you are looking to explore Achilles' p
So: did I mention I've been on kind of a Troy-high lately? I'm halfway through the Robert Fitzgerald translation of The Iliad and have been catching up on my Greek mythology; reading novels based on the Trojan war, because there's no better way to learn stuff than through stories. Last week, I wrote about The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It's a book full of glamour and passion, but this book is the complete opposite. I'd read and appreciated Ransom by David Malouf before, but this reread ...more
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This book had couple of strikes against it before I even read it. First of all, it’s a work of fiction closely based on another work of fiction—always an iffy move, in my opinion. Second of all, the work of fiction it’s based on is Homer’s Illiad, a story that should be exciting but then spends fifty pages describing a shield. When I ran across the book at the local public library, however, I saw that not only was it pretty short, but it also had a mysterious, shadowy picture of a donkey on the ...more
I was motivated to read Ransom by David Malouf as it features on the ABC's list of Aussie Books to Read Before You Die. As a part of Australia's National Year of Reading, readers have the opportunity to browse and vote for their 3 favourite books that they believe should form part of the top 10 list.

What surprises me most about the list is that although it features great Australian authors it doesn't fairly represent great Australian stories. I find myself snagged between a rock and a hard plac
David Hebblethwaite
This is where I start from: David Malouf’s name was unknown to me before I received the review copy of Ransom, but I gather now that he is one of Australia’s most acclaimed writers. The novel (Malouf’s first in ten years) draws on Homer’s Iliad, which I’ve never read; and the Trojan War is one of the aspects of Greek mythology that I don’t know much about. In short, I came to Ransom largely from a position of ignorance, which means I’ve probably missed a lot of the book’s subtleties – but let’s ...more
Mar 30, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone intrigued by the Odyssey and the Illiad
Shelves: fiction
Author David Malouf gives substance to the notion of the story, the art of storytelling, as part of the re-imagined, reinvented, revitalized narrative that both defines us as human and at the same time connects us to the past. Thus, it is not necessary to have pored over various translations of Homer's Iliad, to be steeped in the esoterica of the classics scholar, to enjoy this book. It's only necessary to have an understanding of the underlying story as a basis for appreciating Malouf's unique ...more
I really wanted to like this book as I love mythology and 'The Song of Achilles' was amazing and so moving. However, I just didn't. I could see what it was trying to do and it was written in a lyrical and emotive way. However, I just found it dull. It tells the story of Priam's decision to go and beg Achilles' for the body of Hector back so he can honorably bury his son. And that is it...that is the whole book. I wanted to be moved by this, but Priam remained cold, introspective and seemingly ha ...more
Gregory Mose
It takes some guts to rework material that is already a few thousand years old. David Malouf's creative retelling of a section of the Iliad is curious not simply in having been undertaken in the first place, but also in the utter naturalness in which it is done. Malouf's tone is so matter-of-fact that at times you forget that the old man you're following is Priam, King of Troy, or that the angry soldier is none other than Achilles. Malouf succeeds in humanizing the work in an utterly unostentati ...more
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David Malouf is the author of ten novels and six volumes of poetry. His novel The Great World was awarded both the prestigious Commonwealth Prize and the Prix Femina Estranger. Remembering Babylon was short-listed for the Booker Prize. He has also received the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He lives in Sydney, Australia.
More about David Malouf...
Remembering Babylon An Imaginary Life Fly Away Peter Johnno The Great World

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