K's Reviews > The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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's review
Aug 23, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: ebooks, historicalfiction, scifi-fantasy-magicrealism, couldntfinish, maybe-it-s-me
Recommended to K by: Orange Prize and high goodreads rating
Read from August 23 to 26, 2012

I am going to disagree with the Orange Prize committee. I am going to disagree with thousands of goodreads reviewers. This book is crap.

Okay, all you trolls. Go ahead and tell me what a philistine I am, how ignorant I am of Greek literature and mythology, and how my failure to appreciate this book reflects my limitations rather than those of the book. You don't really need to bother defending this book, because the masses seem to agree with you.

But if you ask me, this was a Harlequin. Boring Patroclus is wholly infatuated with the impossibly perfect Achilles, who, even more impossibly, returns Patroclus's passion. Lots of purple prose, lots of love, daring battles, blah, blah, blah. I got about halfway through and decided I was finished wasting my time.

I'm fine with Patroclus and Achilles being in love, but a little complexity PLEASE. How about some characterization? How about some relationship tension from within, not just without?

I've read some glorified Harlequins that managed to break my snob barrier -- Outlander and Water for Elephants to name just two. Sadly, this one didn't. Perhaps this was, in part, because all the accolades led me to expect something far more literary or deep. And maybe had I read The Iliad I would be more excited by the references and more forgiving of the book's flaws.

So feel free not to take my word for it, but I found this book incredibly disappointing.
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Reading Progress

02/19/2016 marked as: couldntfinish

Comments (showing 1-49 of 49) (49 new)

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Meredith I just checked this out of the library the other day. I'm looking forward to it!


message 2: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I just started it. It's interesting and decently written at first glance. I'm just wondering if I'd appreciate it more if I had read "The Iliad."


Meredith Yeah, "The Iliad" is a huge undertaking. I read it for an epic poetry course in college, but I remember very little about it. I'm not sure how much it will help me in reading this one.


message 4: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I should warn you -- I'm on page 40 and getting really sick of Patroclus's waxing poetic about his crush on Achilles. I'm hoping it will pick up soon, but for now I'm not really seeing what the high goodreads rating was about.


message 5: by Susan KG (new)

Susan KG I will feel free to take your word for it. Thanks for saving me from this book. A few years ago I listened to "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" on tape, and this was a long, long time after reading them in high school. Listening to these stories definitely helped them come alive. I would definitely give Homer five stars!


message 6: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Susan! I should tell you, though, I am very much in the minority here. I believe Homer is great; I just don't think this book was. I hadn't thought of trying "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" on audio. Very interesting idea.


Barbara Falkiner Thank goodness - a voice of reason. The book is really really boring. Why did Achilles fall for Patroclus? I just do not get it. It is syrupy and not good. Thanks Khaya for making me realise I am not totally losing my mind.


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

K Thank you, Barbara! I'm so glad it's not just me!


message 9: by Maw (new) - rated it 1 star

Maw Yes, another one! I was starting to feel quite alone not liking this book. Such a disappointment. I found better slash on fanfiction sites -- that's to say!


message 10: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Maw! I was amazed by the high ratings and rave reviews, and I thought the problem was me. It's good to know there are several of us out there.


Susan I agree with you. I read 160 pages before giving up on this book. The pace was slow an the characters under developed.


message 12: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Susan! I always appreciate it when people tell me I'm not alone in my views.


message 13: by Riya (new) - added it

Riya Is it weird that I want to read this book even more since I have read your review? lol. I must be a masochist because I do enjoy reading books that others have hated just to see if they are as bad as people say they are.


message 14: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I'll look forward to your review then! Maybe you'll enlighten me. Or maybe you'll feel like I did and write a beautifully snarky review.


Ronando Holy Christ I'm not the only one who thinks this book is utter trash. This is a spot on review, nailed it on the head and I applaud you sir for sticking to your guns in the face of such insane (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) reviews. It's not you, it's them and their friggin' Kool-Aid.

However, even though I'm only on page 63, I'm sticking to it; I'm going to read it all the way through. There better be some raunchy sex in this book before the end or I'm literally burning it!


message 16: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Ronando! Your comment gave me a welcome chuckle on an annoying work day. Personally I couldn't read through the pukeworthy sex scenes, but maybe they'll work for you. After all, if the reviews of this book are any indication, one person's trash is another one's treasure.


Ronando Amen brother. I'm still waiting for the flame threads to hit me for my negative review. I just shat all over Miller's writing.


message 18: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I was expecting flame threads on this review, but surprisingly didn't get them. Strange, given the high praise in other reviews. But I won't complain. I've gotten enough flaming on other reviews to keep me busy.


message 19: by Ronando (last edited Oct 15, 2014 01:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ronando Don't listen to them Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty, Gold Rush, Moonshiner, Nascar TV watchin', Velveeta eatin' idiots. Keep kicking ass and taking names K.


message 20: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Love it! Keep them comments coming!


Ronando Ok, so...you're not going to like this but....I actually like the damn book. but not for the reasons you might think...stop looking at me that way.

Granted, you (and myself, thankyouverymuch) are still correct in Miller's flacid, soft, gay, Greek porn, which is so abysmally horrible that it brings nothing but vile hate from my book loving heart. I stand firm on this.

Where the book shines is in everything else that has to do with the Iliad. I believe you mentioned you never read the story, nor have I, but it is next on my list of books to read, right after Maus again (a long story, I got on another GoodReader's low opinion of the book (she's an educated gal but hates the book for all the wrong reasons, yet led me to another book to read that backs up her opinion, which of course I will read, but I digress).

This book is actually a page turner, if, IF you can get past Patroclus' girly feelings that are sickening, even for a teen age doe eyed girl in love with her gym coach. I swear to Thor, pretty much the entire story OTHER than when Petroclus spouts off his feelings, is well worth reading.

I shall have to rewrite my scathing review of the book once I'm done. So, I suggest you give it another try. Somewhere around page 80 or 90, maybe even 100, the ratio of Iliad-story:gooey-pseudo-romance starts to increase.

And just to clarify, I could care less if it's about two men. A) the writing sucks even if Petrclus was a woman, and B) if it's going to be about two men, and one is a Greek God Warrior, then it better have some hard core raunchy sex to at least keep it realistic. ...and interesting.

Another thing, I do have to say, when Achilles isn't playing footsie with Petroclus, he can quite the respectable badass. Go Achilles! I love it when he takes on Agamemnon.


Ronando Ok, I just finished the book...I gave it four stars but am taking off for work and don't have the time to rewrite my review.


message 23: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Oh, well, Ronando, even if we didn't end up agreeing about the book, it was fun to read your comments! I don't think I could stomach attempting the book again; Partoclus was way too much for me. But I'm glad if you felt it got better and it ended up being a good reading experience for you. I'll look forward to hearing what you have to say about The Iliad.


Ronando Hey K! I just finished my review of the book. Take a look and see. Though I was ruthless, I still gave credit where it was well earned. And, I still suggest pushing your way though the book to the end. I actually couldn't put the book down.


Ronando And lastly, I tried to read the Iliad and immediately put it down. I simply didn't have the patience to push through text that was written in 700 BC. I had no idea what to expect. It's not that I don't appreciate fine writing, I finished Tale of Two Cities recently and loved the hell out of it. It's just that...I don't want to work that hard at understanding a book that I'm reading for pleasure.

Call me mundane and an ignorant prole, but I'm sticking to reading historical fiction that's been written in the last 200 years.


message 26: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I didn't even attempt it, so I tip my hat to you. I'm fine with being mundane and an ignorant prole.


message 27: by Kelly (new) - rated it 1 star

Kelly I totally agree with you. The writing was terrible, the only good parts were the steamy romance scenes. If she stuck to that, it wouldn't be half bad. Being dragged through the painfully slow and dull plot and dialogue was the worst. It was like being dragged naked over a football field's length of unfinished plywood. Only with words.


message 28: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Interestingly, the steamy romance scenes were probably what bothered me most. I felt like the book was a glorified Harlequin romance. But I certainly agree that the dull plot and dialogue were no picnic to read. "...like being dragged naked over a football field's length of unfinished plywood" -- great image! I wish you'd written this book. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more.


Ronando ..you say that as if there's a problem with being dragged naked over a football field. ...it builds character.


message 30: by Bela (new)

Bela I totally agree with you. I got to the middle of this book and as much as I tried I could not finish it.


message 31: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Bela! Glad it wasn't just me.


message 32: by Skye (new)

Skye McCoy See, as a major, mythology and classics geek, I liked the book on its own and I also loved the fact that it expanded on a lot of the characters (Briseis for instance). It had its problems, and I honestly think that I wouldn't love it as much as I did if I didn't feel very close to the source material (I LOVE Achilles and Patroclus and have for a while, I love reading Plato and Aeschylus argue about them, I just really like them as characters). But while it's kind of syrupy, and Patroclus borders on annoying, I never thought that this book was badly written, just that the two main characters weren't quite fleshed out enough. (Achilles and Patroclus in all other myths based on them are very much a Battle Duo). I guess it's just my perspective, but while I can sort of understand not liking the book, I can't really understand despising it.


message 33: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Your statement that "I wouldn't love it as much if I didn't feel very close to the source material" reflects one of my issues with the book -- as someone who didn't feel close to the source material, for me it was a stand-alone book and I read it as such. I had no preexisting love for Achilles and Patroclus, and this book didn't give me any.

Good and bad writing is in the eye of the beholder; everyone looks for different things in a reading experience. For me, much of what I want in a novel is characterization; a novel with flat characters is not a well-written novel in my view.

I think a lot of the strength of my reaction comes from seeing this book hyped as a highly literary, engaging book and finding it to be, in my opinion, a glorified Harlequin romance. I was a lot more disappointed than I might have been had I been looking for and expecting the kind of book it turned out to be.


Fazackerly Toast hear hear I thought this book was a serious literary novel. it's not. it's basically just YA fantasy using the Iliad to garner a veneer of intellectual respectability. and a bigger pair of drips I've never come across than Achilles and Patroclus.I kept on wanting to scream at them during their interminable love-maundering, man up, you big girl's blouses!


message 35: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K So glad we agree! Thankfully there are lots of better books out there.


message 36: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K So glad we agree! Thankfully there are lots of better books out there.


message 37: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan I think it sucks too and I have read the iliad


message 38: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Jonathan! Always nice to feel validated.


message 39: by Amanda (new)

Amanda I have not read this book yet, I am reading reviews to find a new book to read. What I can say is "yes, read the Iliad".


message 40: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I haven't read it, but I have to assume the original is far superior to this.


message 41: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan U assume correctly


message 42: by Camus (new) - added it

Camus Grimwood Obviously The Iliad would be "far superior" to this ... It's by Homer. You can't ask most authors to compare to Homer. It's not supposed to be a complete retelling of The Iliad as a whole, but a deviation from the original text slightly to show a romance. You can't expect it to be just as fantastic as something that's survived hundreds of years.


message 43: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Not having read Homer, I wasn't asking the author to compare to him; just to write a worthwhile book. Within the range of books that aren't as fantastic as Homer, surely there can be something better than a Harlequin romance.


message 44: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan I didn't have to make a comparison in order for the book to suck, it sucked on its own.


message 45: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Jonathan! Exactly how I felt.


message 46: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Thanks, Sabah!


message 47: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K Yeah -- I want to want to read it, but somehow it's never made it to my top ten to-read books.


message 48: by Camus (new) - added it

Camus Grimwood Ahhh, I see. The way it was written confused me, but I get what you're saying. And I would recommend reading The Iliad, I thought it was a fantastic book. It's especially great when you're not being forced to read it in school; I've always noticed that I tend to dislike books more when they're assigned school reading.


message 49: by K (new) - rated it 1 star

K I agree, Scout - unfortunately being assigned reading for school can kill a book. I'm a little intimidated about trying The Iliad but it sounds like something I should perhaps attempt.


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