The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

51-kqSMGTIL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_This book has sat on my shelf for a little while, during which time it received lots of excellent reviews and the Orange Prize for Fiction. My hopes were high when I started reading it but I’m sad to say I was really disappointed with it.

It’s not the storyline that doesn’t work, it’s tried and tested, and Miller has chosen to present it to us from Patroclus’s point of view (Achilles’s friend and lover), which works. He is a character you really feel for and identify with. He was definitely the best part of the book, however, I felt let down by the sense of place. I know it was set in Greece and Troy because that’s where the original myth tells us but I just didn’t get that from the book. This is more about the story and the characters than setting the scene. Which will work well for some but I really wanted to feel that I was there. From the text I couldn’t picture where we were.

In addition, I felt that the story telling weakened when Achilles and Patroclus went to Troy to start the long battle to get Helen back. I found myself losing interest, once again there was little sense of place and the battle was boring. It could just be me and battles, I struggled to work my way through the third part of The Lord of the Rings simply because it is one long boring fight.

Anyway, there is the possibility I am being harsher here than I would normally be, simply because of the amazing reviews I had seen/ heard previously and my expectations were too high. Would I recommend it? If you like Greek mythology, yes. If you like a well drawn narrator, yes. But if you want to feel immersed in a book, probably not.

 

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6 thoughts on “The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

  1. More interesting is: “The Silence of the Girls” by Pat Barker. Tells the story from Briseis ‘ point of view: Achilles’ slave girl and war trophy. Very interesting to have the story re-told from a female perspective. Brings to mind “Trojan Women” by Euripides, and how women suffer due to the pretty pride and arrogance of the male warrior class. It is available on radio 4 as “book at bedtime”. Having said that: why not just re-read the Iliad? It is amazing, every time. Or Alice Oswalds fantastic bare bones version in wonderful poetry, “Memorial”

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  2. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one; I did, but maybe it’s because I read it on a Greek Island 🙂 I have just finished ‘The Silence of the Girls’ by Pat Barker and really recommend it.

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  3. I liked ‘Song of Achilles’ on the whole. The biggest strengths are her evocation of the mountains and court settings, and its avoidance of cliche in the building relationship between the two men. But it does sag when all the Kings/Warriors are waiting to attack Troy. Also, there’s a POV problem with Patroclus being dead but having to finish telling the story!! Miller’s ‘Circe’ is interesting but less compelling. Not sure the character ever finds the right voice and think the challenge of representing mortal vs. immortal is foregrounded more strongly in it. But overall I think Miller is a talented interpreter and I like the liberties she takes.

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