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The Song of Achilles Paperback – 12 Apr 2012

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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 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (490 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,139 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

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By thesadieflower on 20 Aug 2012
Format: Hardcover
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 164 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 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 By BCT on 2 Nov 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I am sure I am not alone in being surprised by this novel. I did not expect it to be one I’d enjoy. I love films about Ancient Greece and Rome but I’m not insane about literature. I have read some of the Classics, The Iliad and The Odyssey but it’s never been my thing. I’d never choose a novel because it was focused on this period, it’s a little early for me. Chaucer is about as far back as I go out of choice, or perhaps to The Divine Comedy but nothing further than that. I expected The Song of Achilles to be a challenge but in the same breath I didn’t, as a what was the Orange Prize for Fiction winner, I assumed it must have some mainstream appeal. I wasn’t wrong.

Patroclus is a sensational narrator. I really enjoyed getting to know his voice and with my limited knowledge of Ancient Greek literature and legend, I only had a vague idea of who he was. I loved getting to know him and seeing his character grow throughout the novel. I loved his relationship with Briseis and even his scenes with Thetis. Miller’s control of Patroclus’ voice really is impossible not to enjoy, I got further and further drawn into his story and of course, his descriptions of Achilles make him sound every bit the hero, the perfect partner and beauty. I also love the way Miller doesn’t allow infallibility in her characters, even through his love for Achilles, Patroclus is able to see his weaknesses and through describing these their story feels even more real.

The pace of the plot is perfect. The characters travel across and around the Greek Empire and following them is nothing but a joy. The sense of tragedy is ever present, it’s inevitably coming but it’s impossible not to read on and see how things unfold. Miller’s playfulness with a well-known ancient tale is wonderful and though much of the story stays true to the myth I really loved reading Miller’s retelling. Impressive, especially as I wasn’t expecting much.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras on 20 Nov 2013
Format: Paperback
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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