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The Song of Achilles [Hardcover]

Madeline Miller
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Sep 2011

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not - strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess - and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (5 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408816032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408816035
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (468 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She also studied in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel. Website:

Photo credit: Nina Subin

Product Description


A captivating retelling of the Iliad and events leading up to it through the point of view of Patroclus: it's a hard book to put down, and any classicist will be enthralled by her characterisation of the goddess Thetis, which carries the true savagery and chill of antiquity (Donna Tartt The Times Christmas Books)

Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories (Emma Donoghue, author of number one bestseller, Room)

Original, clever, and in a class of its own ... an incredibly compelling and seductive read (Independent on Sunday)

A remarkably fresh take on one of the most familiar narratives in western literature (The Times)

Extraordinary ... Beautifully descriptive and heart-achingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find (Daily Mail)

Sexy. dangerous, mystical (Bettany Hughes)

If I were to give a prize for the best work of fiction I've read this year, this would be the runaway winner. As a first novel, it heralds the arrival of a major new talent (A.N. Wilson Reader's Digest)

A retelling of The Iliad with entertaining and joyful exuberance ... You may know the story but you've never heard it told like this. A gem (Stylist)

Book Description

LONGLISTED FOR THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2012. A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War - a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely beautiful, poetic prose 20 Aug 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am a teenage girl who absolutely fell for the poetic prose of Madeline Miller. It had me crying at the end. I must say the first half of the book, when the pair are children, was far more enjoyable than the second for me - it is written so simply but so beautifully, and I found it utterly compelling and gentle. Yes, there is recurring adoration from Patroclus - but that's the point. it wouldn't work otherwise. I would thoroughly recommend this book. wonderful!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Simplistic and simple retelling 3 Nov 2012
This is very much a 'mainstream' retelling of a story a lot of people are vaguely familiar with. The author seems determined to keep everything about it as simple as possible. The characters are very thin. You could probably find out more about them with a quick glance at an encyclopaedia. I though this was a massive missed opportunity to deal with these stories in a more grown up way. The actual prose is deliberately (I hope) simple to reflect the age of the boys but I found this really irritating. With my very limited knowlege of these stories I had hoped to find out something new but was really disappointed. The love story, which is central to the novel, was fine I suppose but unconvincing.

Worth a read but generally disappointing and forgetable
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146 of 162 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but... 2 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is very well-written and very involving in places but I did have my reservations about it. Patroclus's narrative voice is believable and gives a convincing account of his childhood misfortunes, the events which lead up to the Trojan War and the War itself. I like the depictions of characters like Odysseus and Agamemnon very much, place and mood are very well evoked, and there are some exciting and very interesting episodes.

Madeline Miller is very keen to portray the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles as one of deep, enduring love, both spiritual and sexual. Whether or not this is justified by the source texts is arguable, but it is a noble aim. However, what we actually get is long, long periods where Patroclus moons around after Achilles like a love-sick puppy, to the point that I felt that the author herself was the one in love with Achilles and wasn't going to miss an opportunity to write a beautifully constructed sentence about his muscles, his hair, the curve of his chin or the soles of his feet (which seem to hold an endless fascination for her) and so on, which I eventually found almost unendurably tedious in places.

There were sufficient good things about this book to make a three-star rating seem very churlish, but it's only just four stars for me. Many other reviewers here have obviously enjoyed it very much, but I can only give it a qualified recommendation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply epic... 27 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Contrary to some other reviews, I actually believe the simplistic style of prose to be this novel's greatest strength. Very elegantly and sparingly written, the author nonetheless brings to life the dusty characters of the Iliad and reawakens them fantastically. "The Song of Achilles" serves as a comprehensive and imaginative retelling of the entirety of the life of Achilles and the span of the Trojan War, as opposed to the ten years covered within the actual Homeric epic. Whilst Miller follows the basic principles and plot of the Iliad, she explores more deeply the character of key individuals, notably Odysseus, Briseis, Thetis, and of course Achilles, through the eyes of Patroclus. Her research of the Greek epic and the relationships within it side heavily with Plato's explanation of both but she provides a fresh and convincing outlook on the debated relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, sensitive in parts and beautifully written throughout.
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96 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Star 23 Sep 2011
By Hiraethus o Gymru VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Song of Achilles is the first novel (hopefully of many more) by a very talented author, Madeleine Miller. Anyone who has read The King Must Die and The Bull From The Sea by the legendary Mary Renault will lock in immediately to the style of this narrative. Achilles is brought to life from his childhood to his exploits at Troy, but this version of his life is told from the view of Patroclus, his friend, companion and lover. The love aspect of the relationship is handled sensitively and in a manner that will not offend the most sensitive of readers and the action scenes and characters of the heroes, both Greek and Trojan, are well addressed. Once started, I found it difficult to put this book down, and was reluctant to close it at the end. A very different approach to Homer's immortal story has hopefully launched a new literary star into ascendancy and I look forward to more of this lady's work in the near future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Part of this book is spellbinding and the whole is entertaining and good value. Having read the Iliad in translation a long time ago, I recall Achilles as some sort of spoilt teenager, his heroic exploits tangled in complex sub-plots and poetic complexity. Madeline Miller retells the story from the vantage point of his closest companion Patrocles and imagines the Greeks and Trojans as real people. The characters who are centaurs and Gods are dealt with plainly and the story of one boy's brilliant potential and the tricks of the gods moves forward at a good pace. For me, the pages come alive when Odysseus is centre stage, and the gritty realism of the siege of Troy is engaging. A brilliant holiday read. Recommended to anyone with an interest in Greek myth. PS If you enjoyed watching Troy with Brad Pitt, this is probably not the book for you but it will do you good to read it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically written story.
Amazing book keeps you wanting more. I've read it three times now!!
Published 1 day ago by Mrs C Waugh
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best novels i have ever read set in Ancient Greece
This is one of the best novels i have ever read set in Ancient Greece. I loved the Mary Renault books but they were written in an early 20th century style which many now would find... Read more
Published 7 days ago by MartinandKashka
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Not my normal read but thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend this to anyone! 5 stars for Achilles & Patroclus.
Published 21 days ago by Happy Shopper
5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to like!
Well written and rude. What's not to like!
Published 21 days ago by 8th Floor Ben.
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely loved this book
Absolutely loved this book. Has she written anything else and, if so, please send it to me!!! Many thanks, Maria
Published 23 days ago by Maria Fallows
5.0 out of 5 stars A simple re-telling - but beautiful!
I thoroughly enjoyed this - I've always been a sucker for Greek mythology. I loved the written style, how much of it was from Patroclus' point of view, and how it seemed to be in... Read more
Published 25 days ago by ClareR
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
Beautifully written, characterisation deep and compelling. Enjoyed reading it immensely. Influences of Homeric cadences here and there. Read more
Published 25 days ago by ReadsALot
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising
Mesmerising read that I couldn't stop reading
Published 1 month ago by Sam
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. Best lover story ever
Brilliant. Best lover story ever.
Published 1 month ago by Lizzy
4.0 out of 5 stars Achilles
Brad Pitt, a fine actor but he could not be this Achilles, no one could that's why this is a historic myth.
Published 1 month ago by mr paul a smith
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