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The Song of Achilles [Paperback]

Madeline Miller
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (476 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

12 April 2012
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

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The Song of Achilles + The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (12 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408821982
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408821985
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (476 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,881 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)

I loved it (J.K. Rowling)

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)

Inventive, passionate, uplifting and different. It will appeal to all ages. It's a book which despite some of the stiffest competition in the modern world is a truly worthy winner (Joanna Trollope, chair of the judges for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012)

Book Description

A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War

Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012

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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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147 of 163 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful, heartwrenching, exquisite novel 20 Nov 2013
From beginning to end, The Song of Achilles is gripping and emotive in a way I have never yet experienced from another novel. From Patroclus' flawless and poetic narrative, we see the world - and most importantly, Achilles - in a different way to one presented by other depictions of Troy and the events surrounding it. It is indeed a love story, so I am bemused by the reviews that find it hyper-romanticised; Miller has said that she wanted to write an evocative and intimate tale of the two lovers, not just re-tell the Illiad in modern prose.

This novel is a success on many levels, from its narrative voice and wonderful style of prose to its characterisation of all the characters, minor or major. I found this book to have rich and complex characters despite it being in first person, a feat not to be sneered at. It is fascinating and heartbreaking to see the rise and fall of Achilles through the eyes of his lover, and one that has no doubt brought many a reader to tears, myself included.

It is not necessary to have read the Illiad before reading this book, though vague knowledge of the story of Achilles and Patroclus helps the fantastic lines of foreshadowing hit far more emotional blows. Indeed, '"What has Hector ever done to me?"' must be up there with the most heartwrenching extracts from the novel, such as 'I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.'

Beautiful, tragic, and sublime, this novel is the first I would recommend to anyone looking for something to read. Madeline Miller, in her debut novel, has managed to capture the gilded world of gods and mortals whilst telling one of the most passionate and loved stories from Greek mythology. This book is more than 'worth' the read: it is a vital must.
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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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Greek mythology
I love Greek mythology. My late husband was Greek and his name was Achilles (Axilleas) so how could I not buy this book!!!
Published 11 hours ago by Mrs. E. Christe
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable read
When I chose this book I was a bit doubtful I would enjoy it but I did. It's taken a well known story from greek mythology and turned it into a story about relationships... Read more
Published 1 day ago by firefly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beautiful, evocative story writing
Published 7 days ago by frequent traveller
5.0 out of 5 stars provocative and a pure delight. Highly recommended
Stunning book. Day off, so thought I would make a start reading 'The Song of Achilles' and couldn't put it down. Read it in a day. Engaging, provocative and a pure delight. Read more
Published 10 days ago by nicola rush
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
This brings Achilles and Patrick is to life. I know now why Alexander the Great and his 'Patrick is' made offerings at the tomb. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Lynda Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
beautiful, magic and elegant, absolutely divine
Published 20 days ago by Lucrezia
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story of love and war, beautifully told.
I am pleased that I had very little knowledge of Homer's version of the Greek myth of which this is a re-telling, such that I came to The Song of Achilles with no preconceptions of... Read more
Published 23 days ago by GreenInk
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey I did not want to end
A life journey that brought about the best and the worst in people. A world where the gods and mortals battle, but in reality it is the complexities of relationships that win... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Sue Hawkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastically written story.
Amazing book keeps you wanting more. I've read it three times now!!
Published 29 days 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 1 month ago by MartinandKashka
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