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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Troy Story
Taking his theme from a small part of Homer's Iliad, Malouf tells the story of the king of Troy, Priam's grief-stricken voyage into the Greek camp to ransom Troy's wealth for the body of his fallen son, Hector, killed by the equally grief-stricken Achilles whose great friend Hector had killed in battle before Achilles took his cruel revenge. Malouf tells the story in...
Published on 28 Oct 2009 by Ripple

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2.0 out of 5 stars Don't pay the Ransom
A great fan of Iliad and Odyssey and all derivative literary efforts, but this novel did not reproduce anything of what the Iliad means for me. A rotten, boring novel.
Published 23 days ago by Dr. Gary S. Shea


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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Troy Story, 28 Oct 2009
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ransom (Hardcover)
Taking his theme from a small part of Homer's Iliad, Malouf tells the story of the king of Troy, Priam's grief-stricken voyage into the Greek camp to ransom Troy's wealth for the body of his fallen son, Hector, killed by the equally grief-stricken Achilles whose great friend Hector had killed in battle before Achilles took his cruel revenge. Malouf tells the story in sparse, yet lyrical and poetic fashion suggesting the personal stories behind the epic themes that Homer related. It is an exquisitely written piece managing to be both deeply moving as well as a great piece of story telling.

Of course, Malouf is not the first great writer to be inspired by Homer - writers from Shakespeare through to, more recently, Margaret Atwood's `'Penelopiad'`, have gone down this route before. Malouf, like Atwood, takes some of the events and characters of the source, and creates new stories, filling in the personal thought processes and stories of Homer's characters in a thoroughly modern way. If your main medium is the spoken word, as Homer's tale would have been literally retold, you have to concentrate on the action to keep your listeners enthralled. Malouf fills in some of these gaps for us.

'Ransom' relates the story from the point of view of three main characters - Priam, Achilles and, the beautifully drawn character of Malouf's own invention, Somax, a humble carter who is plucked from obscurity to be chosen to drive the ransom, in the company of his king, into the heart of the Greek camp. His sense of bewilderment in mixing with the great names of the war is palpable. In return, he introduces Priam to the world of idle chit chat which equally mystifies his royal self.

It's a book very much about individuals and the choices they make to achieve what they are meant to achieve. It is these choices, which in Homer seem more like fate (and the influence of all those annoying gods), that Malouf offers us the modern and human side to these stories.

So, yes, there's a fair bit of anger, grief and the effects of war, but it's far from a gloomy read. The touch of the writing is sublimely light and there are plenty of wry moments. It's a slim novel and I would happily have spent more time with any of these characters.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid and atmospheric tale of war, 27 Oct 2010
By 
J. H. Bretts "jerard1" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ransom (Paperback)
David Malouf has in the space of a short novel managed to vividly plunge the reader into the world of the Trojan war.With a few deft strokes he makes the reader feel what it must have been like for the Greeks laying siege to Troy and what it must have been like to be the hopeless inhabitants of the doomed city. He also fills the characters of Achilles and Priam with life and makes them very believable; they are no longer legendary warrior and king but real people making human choices. While a complete and satisfying experience in its own right, the novel also made me want to plunge into Homer's Illiad. Recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `He has stepped into a space that until now was uninhabited and found a way to fill it.', 15 May 2010
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ransom (Hardcover)
In this novel, David Malouf re-enters the world of the Iliad, to recount the story of Achilles, Patroclus and Hector and provides a very different telling of Priam's journey to the Greek camp. And what a wonderful storytelling it is!

`Dreams are subtle, shifting, they are meant to be read, not taken literally.'

At the end of the novel, Mr Malouf writes that the primary focus of the story is on storytelling itself: why stories are told and why we need to hear them; how stories get changed in the telling; and how much of what it has to tell are `untold tales' found only in the margins of earlier writers. It is possible to read the novel simply enjoying the story without wondering about these broader issues, but they add their own dimension to the writing. It is possible, too, to enjoy this novel without any detailed knowledge of the Iliad. In my case, at least, it stirs a revisiting of the world of the Iliad and probably of the Odyssey, to enjoy those legends anew.

`This old fellow, like most story tellers, is a stealer of other men's tales, of other men's lives.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priam meets Achilles, 3 Aug 2011
This review is from: Ransom (Paperback)
There was a time before the written word, yet when the written word was still young, when story tellers were celebrities and the tales of Gods and heroes were recounted from memory around camp fires late into the night. David Malouf has us in mythical territory, and just like those story tellers of the ancient world, he seeks to recount a tale that is not without some relevance to our everyday lives.

In simple terms David Malouf conjures a dramatic, poetic retelling of Priam's meeting with Achilles, when the king of Troy seeks to pay ransom for the return of his son's body, Hector's body, whom Achilles has killed in combat and then proceeded to haul around the battlefield tied to the axle of his chariot day after day, eleven days so far, in a vain attempt to assuage his grief and guilt over the death of Patroclus, his closest and dearest companion. So, Achilles has lost Patroclus and Priam has lost his son, Troy's hero, Hector, only for Priam he is one of many sons, and he has never really known any of them, not as a father should, but only as a king knows an heir, the offspring of wife or concubine, remotely, tangentially, occasionally.

Malouf imagines a journey, a journey conceived by Priam himself as a simple ransom request, where he travels across the plain of battle to the camp of the Greeks, travels as a common man not a King, travels to the place where Achilles struggles with his demons, to seek, beg if necessary, ultimately to trade for his son's body, on a journey which becomes an awakening, where a King comes to understand a little of the ordinary lives of his subjects, what it is to be a father and in so doing becomes a father himself.

It is drama based on mythology and it applies to all our lives, just as the Greeks realised then when they sat around the camp fires late into the night and listened to the story tellers.

Masterful storytelling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ransom, 25 Mar 2011
This review is from: Ransom (Hardcover)
A beautiful book. The kind you don't want to end. Priam's visit to Achilles to beg for the body of his son Hector is retolled with great tenderness and insight. The theme of the bond between fathers and sons is beautifully portrayed. Somax the carter, who accompanies Priam on the journey, is a wonderfully drawn character. His relationship with his grandaughter and daughter-in-law and the details of his everyday life make you aware that beyond the exploits of the Greek and Trojan warriors are ordinary Trojans trying to exist. He also allows us to see Priam the man rather than Priam the King.
It isn't necessary to have read the Iliad in order to enjoy this book but it will most probably make you want to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unmissable addition to the tragedy of Troy for everyone who loves the original story, 2 Oct 2012
By 
Meerkat (Dereham, Norfolk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ransom (Paperback)
This is indeed an 'exquisite gem' of a book. I don't think I have ever read a better account of a very small extract from Homer's famous 'Iliad'. It covers the period when Achilles has killed Hector and is venting his grief for Patroclus's death on the corpse of the man who killed him. The author hasn't shied away from the mythological elements of the story as many modern authors do - no matter what indignities Achilles subjects the corpse to, the gods restore it to perfection every day and Hector lies there untouched, with just the death wound inflicted by Achilles.
The author looks into the psychology of kingship and hero-ship and has an almost uncanny way of making his surmises seem absolutely natural - I can really believe that Achilles and Priam thought, spoke and acted this way - nothing is out of place; the C21 doesn't intrude at all either linguistically or psychologically.
So - grief-stricken by the death of his favourite son and heir to the throne of Troy, King Priam decides to take an unprecedented step for a man in his exalted position - he will go to Achilles in the guise of a suppliant and beg for the corpse of his son so that he can be given a proper burial. For those of us familiar with this story, Malouf brings a totally new slant and makes us think again - this was an extraordinary thing for Priam to do; to step out of his royal role and become a 'normal' man, to leave his city without a guard or a herald or any of the usual accoutrements of a great king. To beg the most savage and unknowable hero of the age to release a corpse that he has been dishonouring for days. And to get into and out of the Greek camp without being summarily executed.
Malouf also introduces Somax, an ordinary Trojan man who is caught up in this epic moment and who brings a note of the ordinary cost of this war to the story (and has a very fetching donkey called 'Beauty' who is a real character in the story!).
I can't recommend this book highly enough to anyone who loves Homer's epic stories and wants more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ransom, 18 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Ransom (Paperback)
Fabulous in both senses of the word - a slender novel that entrancingly re-imagines the events and characters of Homer's Iliad at the point when Achilles takes revenge on Hector for having killed Patroclus. How interesting that both the Iliad and the Odyssey (see also The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason) continue to generate first-class literature! Ransom is particularly captivating because of the re-visioning of Troy and the Trojans, humanising them and rescuing them from the opprobrium heaped on them in classical Greek and even Roman literature (Aeneas doesn't really count as a Trojan, does he?). This is beautifully written prose that taps into deep-rooted mythical narrative without being entombed by it. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and poetic, 13 May 2012
By 
M. F. Cayley (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ransom (Paperback)
A short novel centred on Priam's visit to Achilles to ransom the body of Hector. This is a moving tale conveying the horrors of war. The best section is the journey from Troy to the Greek camp, where Priam travels in a cart driven by the humble and talkative Somax, a person of no consequence in Troy, who is not overawed by Priam but treats him almost as a child. Priam learns from him a greater humanity. I have given the book 4 rather than 5 stars because I felt the novel was in places overwritten, especially in the first 20 or so pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical re-telling of an episode from the Iliad, 9 April 2012
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Ransom (Paperback)
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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly beautiful, 6 Mar 2010
This review is from: Ransom (Hardcover)
This is a beautiful and truly moving story, perfectly matched by a wonderfully lyrical, delicate style. If it were set in blank verse I doubt many people would claim it couldn't be called poetry.
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Ransom
Ransom by David Malouf (Paperback - 7 Oct 2010)
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