Cristina's Reviews > Ransom

Ransom by David Malouf
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bookshelves: favorites, historical-fiction

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)
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Reading Progress

August 14, 2017 – Shelved
August 14, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
October 12, 2017 – Started Reading
October 12, 2017 –
page 15
October 13, 2017 –
page 36
16.07% "He was waiting for the rage to fill him that would be equal at last to the outrage he was committing. That would assuage his grief, and be so convincing to the witnesses of this barbaric spectacle that he too might believe there was a living man at the centre of it, and that man himself (p.27)"
October 15, 2017 –
page 49
October 15, 2017 –
page 56
October 17, 2017 –
page 79
October 18, 2017 –
page 90
October 20, 2017 –
page 111
October 21, 2017 –
page 167
October 22, 2017 – Finished Reading
November 22, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites
November 22, 2019 – Shelved as: historical-fiction

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Ilse (new) - added it

Ilse Beautiful review, Cristina.

Cristina Thank you very much, Ilse! It's a beautiful little novel. Very moving.

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