Megan's Reviews > The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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Jul 02, 2012

liked it
Recommended for: mythology buffs, people who read too much slash fanfiction, mary renault fans
Read in July, 2012

okay, this is gonna be edited cus I'm at the library right now and I'm hungry but here's my quick verdict:

You'd think that I'd be all over this stuff (gratuitous background: former/failed classics student, mildly ashamed reader of trashy slash fanfiction). But I found this novel disappointing, especially since I had read so many gushing reviews. Despite Miller's credentials as a classics instructor at Brown), the book feels curiously fanfiction-y?? Don't get me wrong, the writing is beautiful in its simple, clear way (expect dozens of pretty similes comparing people's voices to the ocean or whatever), but I couldn't shake the feeling that a super-talented 16 year old girl could have written it.

The mythological aspect is pretty cheesy. There could have been a way to incorporate divine intervention into the story without it being so explicit. I think it's better to have men BELIEVING that the gods are meddling (think the sacrifice of Iphigenia in return for favorable winds) rather than to show direct evidence of the existence of the gods, but here, the gods literally walk the earth. I actually prefer the realist touch of interpretations like the Brad Pitt vehicle "Troy" (which doesn't stop it from being a terrible movie. don't watch it.)

also Patroclus is basically like Bella Swann for like 3/4th of the book. Jeez we get it, you have a giant hard-on for Edward Cullen Achilles. Thetis (Achilles's controlling mother) and others express their bewilderment with Achilles choosing the wimpy Patroclus as his companion --I gotta say, I was puzzled too. but by the end, you finally catch a glimpse of what achilles saw in patroclus. patroclus and achilles have exchanged roles: Achilles becomes a whiny little bitch and under duress, Patroclus proves that he is truly the "best of the Myrmidons".

the most moving passage in the book is when patroclus and achilles are enjoying the golden days of their youth and achilles vows that he *will* be happy despite the fact that every epic hero that came before him (Heracles, Jason, etc.) experienced great tragedy. It's a beautiful, heartbreaking moment. we know that the boys can't escape fate, but we can't help but hope that maybe, this time, something will change.

I'm not really sure that "Song of Achilles" deserved to win 2012's Orange Prize (excuse me, the Women's Prize. Who came up with that name change again?) And if you really want to read about eros between young male heroes, I'd suggest trying Mary Renault instead. But if you still want to see what all the fuss is about, "Song of Achilles" is a quick and easy read. (I read it over the course of two nights during a summer derecho, electricity out, in my sweltering living room with a flashlight).

oh and finally, I can't finish this review without saying... achilles: top in the streets, bottom in the sheets Y/Y?!!
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03/29/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11)




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message 11: by Danni (new) - added it

Danni thanks for reading this, jerk. i was saving it for the book club.


Megan Danni wrote: "thanks for reading this, jerk. i was saving it for the book club."

WHHOOPS SORRY T_____T


message 9: by Pamela (new)

Pamela Danni I'll read it!! For real this time!


message 8: by Maw (new) - rated it 1 star

Maw You're very nice to give it 3 stars. I mostly shared your opinion and didn't give such a "high" rating. Maybe it's because I couldn't even get to the end, where you say the roles changed. Maybe I should have read that part. But, uhhh, I felt this was really bad.


Megan Maw wrote: "You're very nice to give it 3 stars. I mostly shared your opinion and didn't give such a "high" rating. Maybe it's because I couldn't even get to the end, where you say the roles changed. Maybe I s..."

Thanks for your comment, Maw! I would say that it's not worth going back to read the end. I also was tempted to give up halfway through, but I was curious to see how the author would handle the fall of Achilles since Patroclus, as the narrator, dies well before the end. (Turns out that Miller uses the silliest ghost narration ever.) I am not surprised that people, including yourself, rated the book so low. I would give it between a 2-3 stars; I usually round up on goodreads.


Kitty I hated the ghost narration too! It was one of the most pathetic literary devices I've encountered this year, and don't get me started on the (to say the least) clunky dialogue. If I want to have a mundane, monosyllabic conversation I can call my 16 year old brother. Hell! I'd probably gain more from his complaints about being woken up in daylight hours than I did from most of the interaction in this novel. I also found the lack of subtlety in the divine intervention rather irksome, would it really have been so difficult to introduce a little mystery? When an author follows in the footsteps of Homer you expect a certain standard of storytelling, this, unfortunately isn't it!


Megan Kitty wrote: "I hated the ghost narration too! It was one of the most pathetic literary devices I've encountered this year, and don't get me started on the (to say the least) clunky dialogue. If I want to have a..."

Nailed it, Kitty. "When an author follows in the footsteps of Homer you expect a certain standard of storytelling, this, unfortunately isn't it!" <-- This is only thing that really needs to be said about the book!


message 4: by Oscar (new) - added it

Oscar I am also a former/failed Classics student and mildly ashamed reader of trashy slash fic! I really appreciated this review. :D


Rebecca Yes yes yes! It's exacly what I tought while I was reading it! There is standards...we are talking about Omero, not some other unknown writer! It's a pity, but the end was good. Was good because I won't allow me to thing that the ghost part really exists!


Kate ok so idk you but you have literally expressed all my feelings on this book, right down to the former classics major/reader of fic/felt like this was cheap fanfic of homer...bless you


Moonika Haha, I drew the same parallel with Patroclus and Bella Swan, when I started the book. So glad I wasn't the only one thinking: the f is this fanfiction! :D


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