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Ransom: from the award-winning author of Remembering Babylon, An Imaginary Life and Johnno

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David Malouf shines new light on Homer's Iliad, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant. In this exquisite gem of a novel, Achilles is maddened by grief at the death of his friend Patroclus. From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son, Hector, being dragged behind Achilles' chariot. There must be a way, he thinks, of reclaiming the body - of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against the old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, an old man sets off for the Greek camp ... Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking Malouf's fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature - themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all newly burnished and brilliantly recast for our times.

128 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

David Malouf

82 books270 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 622 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,468 reviews3,643 followers
August 29, 2019
The ancient times… They still agitate us and we are ready to return to antiquity again and again.
In the ancient times, when gods were many, they were easy to reach – should one just doze off and some numinous being wouldn’t take long to appear. It’s a shame that in the modern times we can see nothing but dreams.
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 his consciousness is adrift, where the gods, in their bodily presence, have the same consistency as his thoughts.

The King of Troy and a plebeian mule driver are carrying the treasure to Achilles in order to ransom the corpse of King’s son Hector and it is a common carter who teaches King a lesson.
Mightn’t the gods regret it too, and think they acted too hasty, and be sorry now to have seen all that strength go for nothing in the world? Ah, there’s many things we don’t know, sir. The worst happens, and there, it’s done. The fleas go on biting. The sun comes up again.

And a life of a common man is as valuable as a life of king…
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,488 reviews845 followers
December 18, 2020
How could I give less to such an inventive interpretation of an old tale in such a beautifully written book?

I was ignorant of the story of the siege of Troy (well, I’d heard of it, but didn’t know much else), and I’ve never read The Iliad (for shame!). Greeks vs Trojans. That story.

No matter. If you’re as ignorant as I, you will still enjoy a re-telling of this part of by one of Australia’s best authors, David Malouf. This is a story with dreams and gods, but with very human hopes and desires.

Briefly, it’s about Trojan king, Priam, who wishes to recover the body of his son, Hector, who was killed in battle by Greek hero Achilles.

This is a long-running war, and the waiting between battles is: “death to the warrior spirit,” thinks Achilles. “War should be practised swiftly, decisively. Thirty days at most, in the weeks between new spring growth and harvest, when the corn is tinder-dry and ripe for the invader’s brand, then back to the cattle pace of the farmer’s life.”

If only.

Achilles has lost his close companion, Patroclus, who was killed by Hector. But it is foretold that Achilles will die if he kills Hector. Rage and revenge get the better of him, so he not only kills Hector, he gets all his soldiers to stab the body and then drags it around for days on end.

Priam has lost many sons (from various wives), already, but Hector was special, and the son of his first and favourite wife, Hecuba (who has lost 7!). Priam has a dream that he can ransom back the defiled body of their son, and this is the story of that journey. He knows he is getting older and that as a man, not a god, he accepts that his fate is assured.

“Only we humans can know, endowed as we are with mortality, but also with consciousness, what it is to be aware each day of the fading in us of freshness and youth; the falling away, as the muscles grow slack in our arms, the thigh grows hollow and the sight dims, of whatever manly vigour we were once endowed with.”

The language and descriptions are perfect. A scene where his soldiers are eating and playing games while Achilles is distressed with no appetite:

“More wine is carried in. Achilles barely notices all this. It is just the noise that grown men make when they are in company and afraid of where silence might take them. Trees in a blow make such a din. So do stones when they dash together.”

The scenes with Priam and Achilles, two fathers mourning their losses, are touching.

Wonderful book.
Profile Image for Lyn Elliott.
702 reviews188 followers
January 10, 2016
This is one of the best works of fiction I've read for a long time. Outstanding.
Malouf has centred his story on the journey of Priam from embattled Troy to Achilles' tent to ransom his dead son Hector after eleven unbearable days watching Achilles drag Hector's dead body behind his chariot. Mutilated every day, the corpse is made whole again over night by the gods, pushing Achilles into further rage and outrage.
Whereas the Iliad is a story of deeds and actions, this is a story of inner turmoil, doubt and resolution, of roles played by warriors, ordinary folk, a king and his family.
Priam, the king, mourns his son as a king mourns. His life has nearly all been lived as a king (since childhood, we understand) and he thinks and acts in the role of a king, until he begins to break the mould of his life by taking a great chance, doing something no king has done before; dressing plainly and travelling in a treasure-filled mule cart to the Greek camp in a last attempt to ransom Hector's body.
Somax, the carter, introduces Priamr to experiences of ordinary people - trailing one's feet in a running stream; deep sadness at the loss of beloved sons, fearing the death of an adored grandchild. Priam begins to realise the extent to which he has lived in the role of a king and to consider what different reactions he might have if he allowed that mantle to drop, as he has for this journey.
The roles and relationships of fathers and sons are recurring motifs through out. The gods of course intervene at crucial moments to influence events but Malouf has Priam consider that chance can be a factor - not everything is determined by the gods and the fates. Hecuba recoils from this idea as deep heresy, profoundly disturbing to the existing world view. Nothing will be the same again.
Malouf's prose is masterly, and indeed often reads as a prose poem.
I have taken down Latimore's translation of the Iliad to re-read.

Profile Image for Sophia.
270 reviews2,022 followers
January 19, 2016
3.5 tbh

this is a retelling/elaboration/extrapolation of books 22-24 of the iliad by homer. at first, i thought it was so difficult to read. the writing was eloquent to the point where the words just seemed to swim on the page and i couldn't make sense of any of it. but eventually, i got accustomed to the writing and began to appreciate how impeccably malouf conveys the exact notion he wants to convey. he's a talented writer, although i do think he could be more succinct in many places.

the way he humanizes and characterizes the characters and relationships in this book is pretty remarkable. achilles, in particular, was developed so beautifully, i thought. achilles and patroclus are obviously such an OTP. like... how can you read this book and not feel the romance. it's totally there.

the book is divided into 5 parts. i think part 4 is the best part. i think part 3 or part 1 is the weakest. the pace could have been faster and like i said, i do wish malouf could have practiced more brevity, but i mean... the book was p good. there were so many gorgeous passages. (there were also so many passages i had to read over and over again until i understood them bc the first 1000 times, my brain refused to pay attention.)
Profile Image for Carmo.
667 reviews472 followers
October 9, 2018
”Sou Príamo, rei de Troia – diz simplesmente. – Vim até junto de ti, Aquiles, tal como me vês, tal como sou, para te pedir, de homem para homem, como pai, o corpo do meu filho. Para resgatá-lo e levá-lo para casa.
Não faria o teu pai o mesmo por ti? Despojar-se de todos os ornamentos de poder e, não mais querendo saber de orgulho ou distinção, fazer o que é mais humano: vir como eu venho, um homem simples, de cabelos brancos e velho, e rogar ao assassino do filho, com o vestígio de dignidade que lhe possa restar, (…) que aceite o resgate que trago e me restitua o meu filho.”

Alguém me disse um dia que a verdadeira nudez não é despir a roupa e mostrar o corpo nu. A verdadeira nudez é abrir a alma a outra pessoa e exibir a sua intimidade sem artifícios.
Foi o que encontrei neste livro: um abrir mão de astúcias, e uma exposição intima levada ao limite, na plena consciência de que há sempre um dia na vida de cada um, em que a morte será o preço maior a pagar, e nem esse será demasiado alto.
Profile Image for Lisa (NY).
1,553 reviews605 followers
July 5, 2020
By reimagining Priam's journey to ransom the body of his son Hector from Achilles, Malouf has created a beautiful novel about grief and healing. It isn't necessary to be familiar with The Illiad to appreciate Ransom but it does make me want to reread it.
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,074 reviews240 followers
March 8, 2021
This slim book is a lyrically written story that zooms in on one small portion of The Iliad. It focuses on the episode in which Achilles kills Hector in battle after Hector has killed Achilles’ beloved friend Patroclus. Malouf has constructed a detailed story around King Priam’s journey from Troy to Achilles’ camp to retrieve Hector’s body, which is only mentioned in a few lines of The Iliad. It illuminates storytelling – the way stories are told, repeated, and linger in memory. I particularly enjoyed the characterization of the carter and his mules. It emphasizes our common humanity no matter our differences. To fully appreciate it, the reader may want to be at least familiar with the story of Achilles. I found it a beautiful story of grief and redemption, and will be checking out Malouf’s catalogue.
Profile Image for Neale .
310 reviews144 followers
January 11, 2019
Ransom is indeed a retelling of a part of The Iliad. It is one of the defining moments of the poem when Priam kneels and kisses Achilles hand, asking for the return of his son’s body. But in the poem, we are never told just how Priam makes it into the Greek camp. He simply shows up. This short little novel is Malouf’s version of the journey and how Priam arrives at the camp with the ransom. Malouf makes the story very much about Priam and his thoughts and ponderings while travelling on the mule driven cart. We find out that Priam who has ruled Troy for sixty years, knows absolutely nothing about everyday life. Since the age of ten everything has been done for him. His role as King has been to portray an image that is above the normal way of life. He has had to live on a pedestal, a figurehead for the masses. While listening to the loquacious carter Somax, who joins him on this journey, he realises that he knows nothing about life. He marvels at how a pancake is made, and despairs to hear how precious and fleeting life is to the lower classes of his Kingdom. This novel is so beautifully written. It is a joy to hear the carter’s anecdotes and stories of his life. He’s such a great character and Malouf uses him as an archetype of the lower class. It’s intriguing, the contrast between the two. They are polar opposites coming from the extreme edges of the social spectrum. Their worlds could not be any farther apart. And yet, as the carter tells Priam about the death of his son, Priam, with all the sons he has lost, realises that death does not spare either of them, but that it may be experienced differently. Priam laments that he has not experienced the love and passion that the carter had for his son. He has lost so many to the war but many of them he never really knew in the same way as the carter knew his son. His sons, used for politics and alliances, his love more symbolic. Things start to get interesting when a young Greek shows up and claims that he has been sent by Achilles to escort them. Yet how did he know about the ransom at all? Is this the work of the Gods? I cannot stress how beautifully this short little novel is written. The addition of the carter, Somax, works tremendously and he is one of my favourite parts of this novel. The climactic meeting of Priam and Achilles is also beautifully told with a twist provided by Malouf that is a highlight of the book. If you love the Iliad, then you simply have to read this. 5 stars,
Profile Image for Cristina.
Author 28 books95 followers
November 22, 2019
David Malouf's Ransom is an intense and often deeply poetic retelling of books 22-24 of the Iliad that in the epic poem recount King Priam's journey to the Greek military camp to ransom Hector's body from Achilles.

I clearly remember reading this episode in Homer's poem in school and being completely moved by it and Malouf's re-imagining didn't fail to provoke in me the same feeling of deep sadness at the encounter of two men equally stunned by a profound and unutterable grief.

It's very easy to see in the beautifully flowing prose of the novel Malouf's talent as a poet - the lines are often characterised by a deep musicality and are broken and rhythmic.

The book is structured around five chapters of varying lengths alternatively focusing on Achilles and Priam. My absolute preference would go to Chapter I - where we observe Achilles' grief turn into his savage hatred for Hector's body - and to Chapter IV in which the fateful meeting takes place and the two men, divided by war and both painfully aware of their approaching deaths, manage to share a moment of peaceful humanity. The paragraph at the end of Chapter IV gave me shivers for its simplicity and stillness:

'Call on me, Priam,' he says lightly, 'when the walls of Troy are falling around you, and I will come to your aid.'
It is their moment of parting.
Priam pauses, and the cruelty of the answer that comes to his lips surprises him.
'And if, when I call, you are already among the shades?'
Achilles feels a chill pass through him. It is cold out here.
'Then alas for you, Priam, I will not come.'
It is, Achilles knows, a joke of the kind the gods delight in, who joke darkly. Smiling in the foreknowledge of what they have already seen, both of them, he lifts his hand, and on a word from the driver the cart jolts on out of the camp.

I recommend this novel to dwell for a while in its beautifully-knit prose and if you want to relive one of the most heartbreaking episodes of ancient literature.

Priam's Supplication of Achilles by an unidentified 19th-century French artist (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts)
Profile Image for Cláudia Azevedo.
283 reviews131 followers
September 23, 2018
David Malouf é genial na forma como recupera breves linhas de um clássico como Ilíada e cria uma obra de arte sobre a nossa - de todos e de cada um - absurda condição de mortais. É todo um antigo universo de deuses e feitos heróicos em nome da honra que se abre, deixando exposta a nossa grande ferida: a morte como cláusula de um contrato leonino com o mundo dos vivos. Nela e perante ela, somos todos iguais. E tal deveria mesmo bastar para nos compadecermos das dores dos outros. Ou melhor, para nos reconhecermos nelas.
Profile Image for Kathy Turner.
Author 15 books5 followers
May 28, 2012
“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 convinced we are that we are masters of our own destiny.
Ransom is deceptively small. It is a short novel (219 small pages with a pleasantly large font). It has, though, the density, profundity, and lightness of the best of poetry. It is not surprising. Malouf is one of Australia’s greatest poets and novelists. The poetic structure of Ransom, is inspired by Homer’s Iliad, which, though 27 centuries old, is stunningly new in its story telling structures with past and future interweaving with the present, allowing a resonance of meaning to build at each point. Malouf’s poetic skill also, as with Homer’s, intensifies meaning. Here is Malouf describing Priam’s trance: “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 …” (p. 41-2).And here Malouf’s account of Achilles’s rage at Hector, and at himself, for the death of his friend Patroclus. He is dishonouring the body of Hector, great hero of Troy, after killing him in combat: deliberately defying the gods, dragging Hector’s dead body around the barrow holding Patroclus’ remains, seeking a response equal to his pain: “With a jerk of the reins he pulls the horses to the left, and with a great shout sets them off at a furious pace to gallop once, twice, three times around the barrow, the body of Hector, as it tumbles behind, raising a dust cloud that swirls and thickens as if at that spot on the plain a storm had gathered and for long minutes raged and twisted while all around it the world remained still” The story too has been growing in Malouf for almost 70 years, giving the complex ideas time to mature and grow clearer, thus making for the consummate ease with which they are expressed. The conjunction of Homer’s story and his own experience of war and death began when he was a child of nine. In an Afterward to Ransom Malouf writes of a poem Episode from an Earlier War pulling together the war he was caught up in (the American troops in Brisbane, the soldiers coming back from the War, the stories of the war (the ship of children evacuated from England and seeking refuge in Canada torpedoed with 77 children dead) with the story of Troy, and with his ordinary life concerned with sports and bullies and drowned kittens: http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets...#
… At night, fog-bound in mid-Atlantic
my still sleep was choked
with bodies, blind kittens
in the tub where Mrs Allen did our wash
still jerked at arm’s distance, kicking their life out in a sack.

Perhaps it is that conjunction of events and feelings powerfully experienced by Malouf as a child (like an over-determined dream image) which enabled him in Ransom to explore so powerfully the mixture of fate and chance.
Ransom is the story of two men, Achilles, the young Greek warrior, and Priam, the old Trojan King, centering on the act of Priam’s giving ransom for the return of the body of his son Hector. Both stories are built around the concepts of fate and chance set in place when the men were children. For Achilles, it is the chance arrival of Patroclus, who having accidentally killed a playmate, becomes an outcast sent to the court of Achilles' father and who then becomes Achilles’ “soulmate and companion". From that point a central part of Achilles’ fate is set. It is Patroclus’s love of the myrmidons (Achilles’ men) that leads him to take up arms when Achilles has refused to, that leads to his being killed on the battlefield dressed in Achilles' armour, that leads to Achilles' impotent rage for his friends’ death and, more, for his part in it, that leads to his killing Hector and the dishonouring of his body. At this point, Priam’s fate intersects with the fate of Achilles. For just as with Achilles, Priam’s fate has been set by chance. As the child Pordaces he hid, dirty, amongst the children of outcasts as Troy was sacked and burned by Hercules. He is rescued by the ‘fancy’ of his sister, who asks for his return as the gift to be given her as she is taken as a war prize, and by Hercules’ ‘choice’ to offer and agree. Hercules re-names him ‘Priam’ (‘the price paid’) so that he knows always that the life of a slave and that of a king were equally possible, separated only by the chance of his being ransomed. It is this knowledge which allows Priam, faced with Troy’s inevitable fall, his own death, and the rape, destruction, burning and enslavement of its citizens to take the dangerous possibility of ‘chance’ suggested by the goddess Iris who visits him. She points out that he can do something for it is not entirely fate that governs the way things are: “Not the way they must be, but the way they have turned out. In a world that is also subject to chance”.
It is this movement of chance which leads to Priam presenting ‘something new’ to Achilles: himself as an ordinary man, a father. It is the suddenness and unexpected nature of this ransom that allows Achilles to break out of his crazed pain and become “ a perfect order of body, heart, occasion,… the true Achilles, the one he has come all this way to find”. (p. 190). Priam too finds ”a state of exultant well-being” (p. 211). Both men were able to break out of an impossibly tight mould, to open up a new possibility.
We cannot however rest in a ‘happy ending’. We know both men will die soon. We know too that even with stories with happy endings, the living through what really happened and the living with what happened as it becomes our fate is an entirely different matter (as Priam reminds us) … which, on a personal note, leads us back to Malouf and his fate. If the chance encounters of the story of Troy with war and death and the vulnerability of the nine year old child were experienced as my still sleep was choked/with bodies we can see it played out as his fate to circle around these themes, vulnerabilities, and even the images (Priam’s nights are filled with ”the waking dreams that night after night trouble his rest, a burnt-out shell, whose citizens … are the corpses he moves among” (p. 40)).
Malouf, in his Afterword, says Ransom is about story telling about how important it is to tell stories. In an interview on the Australian ABC programme The Book Show (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/p... ) Malouf says of storytelling: ”it enlarges us in some kind of way but it also liberates us in some kind of way. I was very interested recently reading an interview with Umberto Eco where he says that we are narrative creatures, we're creatures for whom narrative is essential to our way of apprehending the world and understanding the world, so that storytelling is absolutely basic to us, and that what we get from storytelling is something we can't do without”.
As Hecuba (Priam’s wife) says Words are powerful. They too can be the agents of what is new, of what is conceivable and can be thought and let loose upon the world”. Malouf’s ideas may well be dangerous. Maybe we, like Hecuba, wish we had misheard. For Malouf is not offering us a concept of ‘chance’ unclothed, as Priam saw it. He is reminding us that all life is a matter of both chance and fate: an entirely different way of looking at the world. And though the Greeks were given the fate by their gods, we like the Greeks in Ransom, are given ours by the price we ”paid in advance” - the knowledge of our fate – our death; and also by those chance conjunctions which resonate as fate through our lives.
This book is a must read for anyone who loves poetry, philosophy, and good story telling.

Profile Image for Terence.
1,168 reviews394 followers
January 21, 2013
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 on a simple (hah!) personal level, acting is a terrifying thing: Do I quit my dead-end, boring job? Do I ask that person out? How far do I go to keep my aging cats healthy? Doing something – anything – leaves you open to its consequences. And it is that idea that has made The Iliad and now Ransom such interesting reads for me as a maturing reader.

In the 24th book of The Iliad, Zeus, disturbed at Achilles’ excessive grief over Patroclus’ death and his attempts to defile Hector’s body, sends Thetis to tell her son that he must surrender the body, and Iris to Priam to tell him that he must take a ransom to secure it. This sets up one of the more poignant episodes of the epic, when Priam approaches Achilles and begs for his son’s corpse (the text is from this edition of Stephen Mitchell’s translation):

Then Priam spoke to Achilles in supplication:
“Remember your father, Achilles. He is an old man
like me, approaching the end of his life. Perhaps
he too is worn down by enemy troops,
with no one there to protect him from chaos and ruin.
Yet he at least, since he knows that you are alive,
feels joy in his heart and, every day, can look forward
to seeing his child, whom he loves dearly, come home.
My fate is less happy. I fathered the bravest men
in the land of Troy, yet not one remains alive.
I had fifty sons before the Achaeans came here,
nineteen from a single woman, and all the rest
were borne to me by other wives in my palace.
Most of my sons have been killed in this wretched war.
The only one I could truly count on, the one
who guarded our city and all its people – you killed him
a few days ago as he fought to defend his country:
Hector. It is for his sake that I have come,
to beg you for his release. I have brought a large ransom.
Respect the gods now. Have pity on me; remember
your father. For I am more to be pitied than he is,
since I have endured what no mortal ever endured:
I have kissed the hands of the man who slaughtered my children.

In Ransom, David Malouf has taken this all-too-brief moment of compassion in the midst of dreadful war and has expanded upon it to create a modern novel that explores the possibilities of ignoring Fate.

The novel begins with Achilles brooding on the beach, reflecting on his life and his destiny. Malouf’s Achilles rages not at Agamemnon’s insult (though it’s the catalyst) but against his fate: “But in some other part of himself, the young man he is resists, and it is the buried rage of that resistance that drives him out each morning to tramp the shore” (p. 10). To add to his misery, he now feels guilt that Patroclus has died in his place and apart from him, and he feels trapped: “He is waiting for the break. For something to appear that will break the spell that is on him, the self-consuming rage that drives him and wastes his spirit in despair” (p. 35).

That “break” soon appears in the guise of Priam, who conceives of an audacious plan to recover his son’s body. Audacious because it calls upon him to act as a simple man, not the king he has been nearly his entire life.

Malouf’s Priam, like his children Cassandra and Helenus, is prone to inspirations from the gods, and one night he is visited by Iris – goddess of the rainbow and Zeus’ messenger – who whispers in his ear the blasphemous idea that the way things are is not how they must be in a world “that is also subject to chance” and gives him a vision of a night-time journey, accompanied only by one companion, to the Achaean camp.

From the day he was born, except for one brief, traumatic moment, Priam has been ringed about by ritual, tradition and expectations based upon his sacred role as king. It’s a sterile life, cut off from any real contact with other humans – even in what should be the most intimate of relationships: husband/wife, father/children. But he senses the possibility in the act of approaching Achilles as a simple man, a father. The possibility to confound what Fate and the gods have in store for Troy, if only for a moment [the 12-day truce]. Similarly, when Achilles sees Priam in his tent, he realizes the possibilities the old man’s appearance opens up - though neither has the strength at the end to seize them. Which, for me, is the real tragedy of The Iliad and of this novel: We see the man Achilles might have become. An honor-bound warrior – yes; a god-like killing machine – yes; but also a man capable of empathy and compassion (a notion I don’t think entirely alien to Homer’s original).

There’s a third character – Somax – the humble carter whose cart and mules are hired for the trip to the Achaean camp, and who – for that night – takes on the persona of Idaeus, the king’s herald. Somax is Priam’s gateway into the world of humanity; and their journey is Priam’s introduction to what he’s lost by being king. There are near-lyrical scenes where the old king marvels at cooling his feet in a river or learning how to make griddle-cakes (realizing for the first time that a real person makes them).

The climactic scene reprises – of course – the episode from The Iliad quoted above but with subtle differences that deepen the poignancy of Homer’s description:

“Father,” he [Achilles] says again, aloud this time, overcome with tenderness for this old man and his trembling frailty. “Peleus! Father!”

The great Achilles, eyes aswarm, is weeping. With a cry he falls on one knee*, and leans out to clasp his father’s robe. Automedon and Alcimus, their swords now drawn and gleaming, leap to his side.


Achilles, startled, looks again….

“I am Priam, King of Troy,” he says simply. “I have come to you, Achilles, just as you see me, just as I am, to ask you, man to man, as a father, for the body of my son. To ransom and bring him home.”
(pp. 174-5)

The only reason I’m not giving this book five stars is a personal disagreement with how Malouf handles the gods. In the beginning, when Iris visits Priam in his bed-chamber, there’s an ambiguity about what the gods are. Are they real or are they products of mortal minds? Priam is alone. He’s prone to visions. Could Iris be his subconscious creating the only thing that could move him from his appointed role, the cage he’s constructed around himself – a god? That ambiguity is sacrificed when Somax and Priam meet the quite real figure of Hermes as they cross the Trojan plain. Unfortunately, in my view. I would have liked the author to retain that sense of ambiguity.

That aside, I very strongly recommend this novel.

And on a similar note: As you may have gathered, one of the principal reasons I thoroughly enjoyed reading (and rereading for this review) Ransom is the theme of denying the existence of Fate, and I was reminded of two tales that I would also recommend: The short story “Wolves Until the World Goes Down” by Greg Van Eekhout (in Starlight 3) and China Miéville's Un Lun Dun. The former is a subversive tale about Ragnarök and breaking the chains of Fate. The latter begins as the usual tale of a chosen hero who will defeat the evil ruler but soon switches gears entirely to become a story about an entirely different hero who ignores the maunderings of hoary old Fate to make her own destiny.

* Note the inversion of roles in Malouf’s version.
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
931 reviews104 followers
March 15, 2022
I have previously enjoyed every David Malouf book and he is one of my favourite Australian author.

This retelling of part of the Illiad just did not seem to be headed anywhere. Seeing that I last read the Illiad over 50 years ago, a prior re-reading may have helped. The writing is fine as usual, the story just did not have any relevance for me.

My first DNF of the year at 37%.
Profile Image for Gearóid.
306 reviews129 followers
May 9, 2015
Just brilliant!
Enjoyed very sentence.
There are lots of good reviews on this book.
All I can add is that even though it is quite a
short book it was totally absorbing and just
couldn't put it down!
Profile Image for jaz ₍ᐢ.  ̫.ᐢ₎.
121 reviews60 followers
September 14, 2023
I’m unsure what it was but I could not connect to this at all? Beautiful prose and easy to read but I felt disconnected and not involved in the narrative, I find that with Greek retellings, you have prior knowledge of certain stories so you need an in depth plot and gripping writing style to keep a reader interested, unfortunately for me this fell short.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews842 followers
March 23, 2010
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 ransom the body of Hector whom Achilles has dragged across the plains of Troy for eleven days. The gods have little place in this story. Only Hermes, the trickster, and the guide of mortals to the underworld appears here to guide Priam and Somax through the Greek lines and to Achilles. "Ransom" is short, but powerful, and in any number of spots is achingly beautiful in its depiction of the sanctity of human life. Although the reader knows the ultimate outcome of the Trojan War, Malouf brings a new and unique perspective to an old story that holds out the possibility, the hope, that this old story might end differently. This is a story that should linger in the mind for a very, very long time.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books818 followers
March 2, 2010
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.
Profile Image for George K..
2,439 reviews318 followers
September 25, 2017
Έχουν γραφτεί πολλά μυθιστορήματα που βασίζονται σε διάφορα κομμάτια της Ιλιάδας ή της Οδύσσειας του Ομήρου, τα περισσότερα με μια καινούργια και διαφορετική ματιά στα γεγονότα των δυο αυτών επικών έργων. Ένα από αυτά τα μυθιστορήματα είναι και το συγκεκριμένο του Ντέιβιντ Μαλούφ, το οποίο αφηγείται κυρίως τον αγώνα του βασιλιά της Τροίας, Πρίαμου, να πάρει πίσω το πτώμα του γιου του, του Έκτορα, το οποίο ο τρομερότερος πολεμιστής των Ελλήνων, Αχιλλέας, για αρκετές μέρες ατίμαζε με τον χειρότερο τρόπο, αψηφώντας ανθρώπους και Θεούς. Όλοι γνωρίζουμε τα γεγονότα γύρω από τον θάνατο του Πάτροκλου, τον θάνατο του Έκτορα από το σπαθί του Αχιλλέα, την βεβήλωση του νεκρού σώματος του πρίγκηπα της Τροίας από τον οργισμένο και γεμάτο πόνο Αχιλλέα, το μικρό ταξίδι του ίδιου του βασιλιά Πρίαμου στο ελληνικό στρατόπεδο για να πάρει πίσω τον νεκρό γιο του και να τον κηδεύσει με όλες τις τιμές. Ο Μαλούφ δίνει μια νέα οπτική στο συγκεκριμένο θέμα, μας δείχνει με τον πιο έντονο τρόπο τον πόνο ενός πατέρα, που από ένα σημείο και μετά αφήνει στην άκρη τα βασιλικά του καθήκοντα και εθιμοτυπικά, και γίνεται ένας απλός άνθρωπος, ένας απλός πατέρας γεμάτος πόνο. Μπορεί να πει κανείς ότι το βιβλίο αποτελεί σπουδή στην απώλεια, την θλίψη, την αγάπη και την λύτρωση. Η γραφή του Μαλούφ είναι εκπληκτική, άμεση, λυρική και γεμάτη συναίσθημα, με τις περιγραφές του να δημιουργεί κάποιες φοβερές εικόνες.
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,492 reviews
November 25, 2018
No amor e na morte todos somos frágeis e vulneráveis; não há qualquer diferença entre um guerreiro semideus, um poderoso rei ou um pobre carroceiro. É esta verdade absoluta que David Malouf nos recorda, de forma bela e comovente, recorrendo a um dos episódios da Ilíada.
Profile Image for Terry .
402 reviews2,148 followers
February 14, 2018
3 - 3.5 stars

Homer’s _Iliad_ has long been considered one of the cornerstones of western literature and culture and the themes and events it presents have become part of our common language of myth and metaphor. The story and characters have been tackled by numerous writers wishing to comment or expand upon Homer’s model, or provide their own take on its events. In his novel _Ransom_, David Malouf does this as well, though he concentrates on one small, though significant, scene: Priam’s journey to the Greek camp in order to beg Achilles for the body of his son Hector, and then expands upon it. As Malouf develops his tale we see him working out the idea that this one event was something completely new, even world-changing, that was entering into the human experience.

Malouf presents an ancient world that is bound by tradition and custom. One’s place in the world is determined by one’s birth and these circumstances can only be changed by the will of the gods or the hand of fate…or so it has always been thought. Is it perhaps possible that there is something outside of the restrictions of these powers? Could chance, or even mere human will, possibly break free from them and create something new? Ironically Achilles himself showed that this could happen when, through his act of madness and vengeance on behalf of his lost friend Patroclus, he contravened the time-honoured traditions of the hero against all of the laws of gods and men and desecrated the body of his foe Hector. Priam himself is at first staggered by this event, unable to see how such a thing could have occurred, until he is able to look beyond the constraints which he has always taken for granted and considers that perhaps there can be something new under the sun. Aided by the voice of the gods Priam takes a monumental step towards breaking out of the purely formal royal sphere of king, which has until this moment defined his life, to move towards the simply human role of man and father. This, says Malouf, was a new, and even unprecedented, occurrence. Unlike Achilles who breaks from tradition with an act of extreme violence, Priam breaks through his restraints through an act of humanity and humility.

The story itself revolves around Priam and Achilles, the two actors who are able to change history, with most other characters (such as Priam’s wife Hecuba, his remaining sons and daughters, and Achilles’ Myrmidons) mostly providing background colour, or displaying confusion at the unheard of behaviour of their leaders. The one significant exception to this is Somax, the simple carter hired by Priam’s sons to carry their father, and Hector’s significant ransom, to the Greeks. Somax is nonplussed by the situation in which he finds himself. A simple ‘salt of the earth’ kind of man, he finds himself unsure of how to react when he is thrust into the midst of royal events. Ultimately Somax is able to provide Priam with an example of ‘mere humanity’ which further allows the king to step away from his role of figurehead and embrace his own humanity in order to complete his task.

I enjoyed the byplay between Priam and Somax, as well as the intrusion of the gods into human events (sometimes as mere whispers and dreams, and at others in vivid exuberant life). The writing was also fluid and well done, though I sometimes found the voice to be a little distancing and on occasion I felt that there was more telling than showing, but all in all I enjoyed this story and would recommend it, especially to those wishing to have another glimpse into the world of Homer’s heroes and the cradle of western culture.
Profile Image for Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.).
494 reviews305 followers
November 10, 2010
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 near the end of Homer's The Iliad, including the following: the death of Achilles' friend Patroclus (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). With little more than passing references in his novel, Malouf wisely leaves it to Homer to tell the story of the first three events, and instead focuses most of his book on the last--that of the Trojan King, Priam, and his efforts to claim his son's body from Achilles. Homer's description of Priam's meeting with Achilles is, in my opinion, the most emotionally charged and powerful scene in the whole poem. In his novel, Malouf, the poet/author, lyrically and tenderly delves into the psychology of the grieving warrior over the loss of his friend, and the grieving father and his efforts to retrieve the body of his slain son. While this is surely one of the saddest stories I have read of late, at the same time the reader cannot help but be buoyed up by Malouf's beautiful portrayal of the innate sense of decency, goodness, and the inherent need for redemption that resides in each of us--even in the face of great adversity and tragedy.

My impression of the Trojan War comes from reading The Iliad, and largely seems to be nothing more than a game board set up on a table and surrounded by the pantheon of gods and goddesses who reached down and pushed playing pieces about; with one side gaining a brief advantage, and then the other. The upshot was that for ten long years the war between the Achaeans and Trojans reeled back and forth across the Scamander Plain outside of the walls of Troy, and resulted in the bloody slaughter of hundreds, if not thousands, of Greeks and Trojans alike. Reading The Iliad left me with the overwhelming feeling that it all seemed preordained, and that the story just had to play out as foretold. What Malouf does so brilliantly in Ransom is to 'liberate' a portion of this epic tragic tale from the control of the gods and Fate, and gives the power of 'free choice' and decision-making to two of the primary protagonists--Priam and Achilles.

For ten days in a row, following the death of Hector in single-combat with Achilles, Priam and the Trojans have watched Achilles drag Hector's body behind his chariot around the funeral mound of his slain friend, Patroclus. Finally, Priam can take it no longer, he must do something. Late one night he has a vision of something "new" occurring. He sees that he must go to Achilles, not as King of Troy, but as the father of a dead son, and appeal to him man-to-man for the body of his son. He will ride to the Achaean camp without all of the trappings of his authority on an old and unadorned cart pulled by two mules with an old grey-haired Trojan country rustic as the cart-driver.

A goodly portion of this little novel is the story of the carter, Somax, and Priam and their journey out of the city and through the countryside to the Achaean camp. The two old men begin to get to know one another, and slowly but surely develop a tremendous amount of empathy for one another. After a few hours of slow plodding in the wagon, Somax stops at the bank of the river they have to ford and has the King wade out into the river just to feel the coolness of the water. He feeds the King some of his daughter-in-law's simply-made buttermilk griddle cakes. He tells the King about the loss of each of his children, and that all he has left is his daughter-in-law, his little four-year-old granddaughter, and his two mules ('Beauty' and 'Shock'). What Malouf has masterfully done in this part of the novel is to help the King reestablish his connection with his own humanity and the land around him. It is precisely the preparation that he needs in order to be successful in his upcoming supplication to Achilles.

I don't want to say too much more about the meeting between Priam and Achilles, as it really is the climax of the novel, but suffice it to say that it is an emotionally riveting experience. With tears in my eyes, I found myself almost holding my breath as the two men quietly talk in a dark corner of Achilles' tent in the middle of the night. It is heart-wrenching stuff. I do want to share just a bit of Malouf's beautiful writing of this intimate meeting too, especially these few words from Priam--
"'Achilles,' he says, his voice steady now, 'you know, as I do, what we men are. 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. That is the hard bargain life makes with us--with all of us, every one--and the condition we share. And for that reason, if for no other, we should have pity for one another's losses. For the sorrows that must come sooner or later to each one of us, in a world we enter only on mortal terms.'"
Upon reading this I suddenly realized that Malouf wants us to realize, just as Priam and Achilles have, that being Human, and therefore mortal, is better than being one of the Immortals. Humans, with all of our warts and short-comings, have reasons to live and love, reasons to do the right things, and reasons to make our brief lives mean something that might be remembered through the ages, or even for just a few moments. Homer, through The Iliad, makes us remember Achilles and King Priam, and Malouf's novel helps us better understand why we should.

I suppose that there is always the danger of trying to retell even a portion of a story that is so well-known as The Iliad. I submit that Malouf has not run that risk here at all, and has not over-reached one-jot in telling this powerful story. This compact novel, with its Homericly noble prose, is rich with pathos, emotion, empathy, compassion and humanity. It is not the story of the gods and goddesses; no, it is the story of humans and human failings and feelings. Most of all I think it is the story of the triumph of the human spirit even in the depths of despair and tragedy. Priam takes a chance to retrieve his son and finds his humanity. Achilles takes a chance by giving up his rage and finds his inner peace and redemption. Nearly three-thousand years later we still weep for and admire both of these men for what they suffered and went through. Malouf's superbly well-written Ransom poignantly and touchingly reinforces those feelings we harbor in our hearts, but may not have fully understood why.

I highly recommend this novel, and unhesitatingly award it five of five stars. If you do read this novel at some point, and I sincerely hope you will, please consider going back and reviewing the books of The Iliad that I referenced in the opening paragraph. When you finish reading David Malouf's Ransom, please drop me a note and let me know what you thought.


Profile Image for Ilary.
269 reviews2 followers
August 1, 2022
Piccolo retelling senza pretese, ma che nella sua modestia ha comunque un fascino non da poco. Il fulcro della trama è Ettore, o, meglio, la sua morte. Ai lati si sviluppano i pov dei personaggi che gli sono più legati nella narrazione: il nemico Achille e il padre Priamo. L’autore si prende tutto il suo tempo per raccontare, abbondando tra descrizioni e riflessioni. La lettura, nonostante la tragicità della situazione narrata, risulta scorrevole, piacevole, dolce. Il lettore viene preso per mano e trasportato in un luogo ancestrale, coinvolto in un modo di vivere lontanissimo al suo. Menzione ad onore per Somace: creazione dell’autore tutta da assaporare.
Profile Image for Judith Starkston.
Author 6 books123 followers
October 7, 2011
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 ignores the legitimate concerns of his aged wife and remaining sons and insists on going on a mad journey into the heart of the Greek camp to beseech the killer of his many sons, and most particularly his dearest son Hector, to give back Hector’s body, even though Achilles has shown nothing but a burning desire to wreak his continuing revenge on the corpse by dragging it daily behind his chariot. Hector, after all, had killed his friend Patroclus, the man who was as necessary to Achilles’s well-being as breath or water. In a moment of transformation, Achilles agrees, and Priam returns with the body. That’s the story, unchanged from Homer. But that’s not the book, or not more than the structure upon which he suspends the essentials; the insights and epiphanies of his telling rise like the smell of fresh bread coming from the oven: earthy, embracing, bracing, and beautiful.

Malouf captures both physical place and inner worlds with extraordinary precision and grace—sometimes all in the same group of spare words. For example, in the opening pages Malouf portrays the complex being that is Achilles, part mortal, part son of the sea goddess Thetis:

“As a child he had his own names for the sea. He would repeat them over and over under his breath as a way of calling to her till the syllables shone and became her presence. In the brimming moonlight of his sleeping chamber, at midday in his father’s garden, among oakwoods when summer gales bullied and the full swing of afternoon came crashing, he felt himself caught up and tenderly enfolded as her low voice whispered on his skin.”

“When summer gales bullied”—that sort of word choice, unexpected and perfect, is a reflection that Malouf is not only an award winning novelist, but also a first rate poet.

It is to Priam that Malouf brings the most startling understandings. In building his version of Priam, he borrows from a mythological tradition outside Homer about Priam’s early life—a near miss with slavery—and he gives Priam a most unlikely companion on his crazy journey, a rough workman, a carter who sits in the marketplace each day with his mules and wagon for hire. He portrays Priam struggling to understand what being a father, a husband, a man means. Malouf’s Priam tugs off the restraining mantel of kingship to discover the simple joys of being human, partly with the help of his humble companion. This is fascinating to me since it is from Priam’s visit that Achilles finds his way back to the human race. I had never imagined a Priam who, for different reasons than Achilles, is also struggling to find his humanity. Malouf has often written about what the inner world of being a man is, and this book continues that theme. The subtlety of his findings on this subject are hard to analyze—the atmospheric, osmotic understanding has to grow into you from Malouf’s words.

I’m not sure how this book would feel to someone who has never read the Iliad. I honestly can’t say if it would be as rich an experience, though I’d love to hear from anyone who reads Ransom but hasn’t experienced the ancient epic. Given the depth of Malouf’s ideas about male feelings, I think it’d be a great read. But for all you lovers of Homer, I am certain this is a book you’ll savor.
Profile Image for Overbooked  ✎.
1,536 reviews
March 3, 2016
This book recounts the events in the last books of the Iliad in a surprisingly modern way, but it retains the power and elegance of the ancient text. I was impressed by Malouf’s ability to express the humanity of the characters and his enchanting language skills. I really liked how the author seamlessly weaved the tales of an unknown character, Somax, with the famous heroes and gods.

While I loved the tender dialogue between Priam and Hecuba, I think that Malouf spent too much time narrating Priam and Somax journey to the Myrmidons camp. I felt that the later exchange between Priam and Achilles, that should have been the climax of the story, was, comparatively, too brief. Sadly, in this retelling, Andromache's lament is missing.
The book concludes with Priam’s tragic end by the hand of Achilles' son. While this episode is not part of the Iliad (it is present in the Aeneid), I think this inclusion makes sense and it is a fit ending to a great story. Overall, it is a brilliant novel.

Favourite quotes:

The chance to break free of the obligation of being always the hero, as I am expected always to be the king. To take on the lighter bond of being simply a man. Perhaps that is the real gift I have to bring him. Perhaps that is the ransom.

The image I mean to leave is a living one. Of something so new and unheard of that when men speak my name it will stand forever as proof of what I was. An act, in these terrible days, that even an old man can perform, that only an old man dare perform, of whom nothing now can be expected of noise and youthful swagger. Who can go humbly, as a father and as a man, to his son’s killer, and ask in the gods’ name, and in their sight, to be given back the body of his dead son. Lest the honour of all men be trampled in the dust.

At his feet, the body whose quiet he can accept now as a mirror of his own. So long as he sits here, there can be no conflict between them. They are in perfect amity. Their part in the long war is at an end.
Profile Image for Kathi.
217 reviews63 followers
Want to read
August 29, 2019
I NEED THIS! Sounds soooooo good
Profile Image for F..
143 reviews7 followers
June 15, 2018
I delved into this book feeling really excited but ended up quite let down. However, I must be perfectly honest and admit that there is a high chance that I only felt that 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' perspective, Ransom isn't the best book for it.

Though this book is not lacking in the poetic sense, as one would expect from David Malouf, its prose can be quite condensed in some parts, making it difficult to understand if you do not make the effort to read the same passage two or three times. Furthermore, Ransom is definitely not an easy read if you do not at least have a general background of the Trojan War and Greek mythology.

Lastly, I think that Malouf was so focused on the main theme that he's trying to convey that it weakened his portrayal of Achilles. The way he portrayed Priam was near perfect- I felt for him and I grieved for him. However, in terms of Achilles, I could not shake off the feeling that Malouf was being overly cautious in conveying Achilles' affection towards Patroclus, which gives an off-putting sense of whoa-whoa-whoa-no-homo. Not to mention, the fact that Achilles was mourning for Patroclus seemed to be immediately thrown into the wind the moment Priam showed up, and this tilted the balance of perspectives rather unfavourably.
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,492 reviews2,735 followers
August 24, 2018
In this short book, Malouf re-enters the Iliad and expands the episode from close to the end when Priam travels to the Greek camp to ransom back his son Hector's body from Achilles.

Malouf writes in lovely, lyrical, economic prose (`the corpses he moves among: headless, limbless, savagely hacked, hovered about by ghostly exhalations and the fires of the dead'), and conveys atmosphere very well.

I guess my caveat about this book is that by expanding this single episode, Malouf is forced to spell out in harsh and explicit detail all that is so delicately suggested and layered in Homer's own text. For example, Achilles' confrontation with his own mortality (which he has already embraced in the Iliad from the early `embassy' scene), is here spelt out; as are his farewells to his own father, Peleus, and his son Neoptolemus, who he will never live to see arrive in Troy. This is a matter of personal taste but I prefer the suggested and the implied of Homer to having all of this spelt out for me.

So this is undoubtedly a well-crafted and emotional read. But does it do or say anything that isn't already done by the classical texts it evokes (Virgil's Aeneid, the Trojan plays of Euripides as well as Homer himself)? I don't really think so. If you have found Homer a difficult read (which may well be due to the translation - try Lattimore's version The Iliad) then this might be an excellent alternative. I'm afraid, for me, it just doesn't stand up to the breadth of humanity, the pathos, the emotional intensity and the sheer luminosity of Homer.
Profile Image for Tamara Agha-Jaffar.
Author 6 books252 followers
August 8, 2016
Ransom by David Malouf is a brilliant re-telling of a pivotal moment in Homer’s Iliad when Priam, the aged king of Troy, journeys to the enemy camp to offer a ransom in exchange for his son’s body. What makes the event so poignant is he has to make the offer to his son’s killer, Achilles. In his skillful and detailed portrayal of Priam, Achilles, Hecuba, and Somax, Malouf performs a masterful task of fleshing out these characters, rendering them as fully rounded human beings. He depicts them with tenderness, compassion, empathy, and a sensitivity to detail that is mesmerizing. This remarkable novel, told in lyrical prose, touches us at the core of our humanity. It is one of the best novels I have read in a long time.
Profile Image for Justin.
490 reviews22 followers
July 2, 2022
july 2022
perhaps the strongest 3½ stars i could possibly ever give. pitch-perfect writing with gorgeous emotion that defines the line between restrained and excessive, and a masterfully circular narrative structure that enmeshes past present and future to perfect effect. unfortunately, despite all this praise, ‘ransom’ just does not speak to me on a personal level. i so want to love it, and if i revisit in a few years when the book is not literally an assigned chore to get through, i hope that i’ll rate it higher. it just comes down to the vibe idk what to tell you..

january 2022
this absolutely got better as it went on, and i especially love the ending for its bittersweet and poetic few pages. solidly a good book, i just wouldn't have ever picked it up of my own volition and that is reflected in my rating
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