Customer Review

147 of 164 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but..., 2 Oct 2011
This review is from: The Song of Achilles (Hardcover)
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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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Comments

Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 May 2012 11:40:49 BDT
Victoria says:
I'm a quarter of the way through, and enjoying it so far, but I agree about the author's fascination with the soles of Achilles's feet - not to mention the oil he rubs into them. 100 pages in and I think I've read five references to them! Gross, I don't even like feet, let alone ones that have dead skin on them from running in the sand.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jun 2012 20:00:41 BDT
I haven't read much of this book myself, but I think that the references to Achilles' feet are a bit of dramatic irony.
*SPOILER*
According to popular legend he was killed by an arrow in his heel (the only place where he could be wounded).

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jun 2012 10:00:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Jun 2012 10:03:08 BDT
Sid Nuncius says:
You may be right, John, but I have to say that they didn't read that way to me, but as straight descriptions of bits of Achilles' body which Patroclus (and Madeline Miller, I suspect) found attractive and exciting. She is very specific about the *soles* of his feet rather than the heel or the foot as a whole. it's certainly an interesting notion, though - I'd love to know what you think when you've finished the book.

Thanks for taking the trouble to post.
Sid

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jul 2012 20:35:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jul 2012 20:37:07 BDT
Dignitas says:
The bathing of feet was an important ritual in the Ancient World. It is possible to read it as a 'slave-service,' as slaves would have bathed the feet of their masters. If you are aware of Catullus' poetry, he describes love as a slave-service, even calling his beloved 'Domina'.

Posted on 19 Aug 2012 17:01:51 BDT
Pedro says:
I'm reading 'The Song of Achilles' and was interested to see what other readers have made of it. I completely agree with Sid Nuncius in finding Patroculus' obsession with Achilles' feet fairly bizarre and tiresome but my main problem with the book is that I find Achilles himself completely unconvincing as a fearsome warrior, certainly nothing like the man you meet in the Illiad. The book brought to mind Mary Renault's treatment of Ancient Greece,which is a compliment, but suffers badly in comparison - her Theseus is infinitely more believable and attractive than Miller's Achilles. My general feeling is that it will be appreciated most by those who know least about the Ancient Greek's world.
Pedro

Posted on 23 Aug 2012 18:02:51 BDT
I loved this book, it is beautiful and poetic. I enjoyed the story of the Trojan wars so much that I bought the Iliad and reread it again to match her story with Homer. Well done Ms Miller you deserve your awards!
Lynn K

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Sep 2012 17:40:58 BDT
I personally found the book very interesting and sucessful in re-narrating such a classic (quite a task indeed), but that's a matter of taste. However, as John noted above, the often discussion of the feet of Achilles is a reference to his death (obvious to someone who is familiar with his story) and as such I didn't find 'tedious' but rather clever and contributing to the narrative.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Nov 2012 20:51:36 GMT
pedro says:
I must aggrea with Lynn Kennington, i also loved this Book of which i have just finished reading, such a beautifull written book,and also Ms Miller, desserves her awards, Congrates on such a worthy novel. pete.
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Sid Nuncius
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