A beautifully written novel, the first in Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy" (the third volume won the Booker Prize). Set in a war hospital in Scotland during World War I, the story revolves around several patients and physicians, including the poet Siegfried Sassoon. After serving honorably, Sassoon wrote an anti-war statement, which he asked an MP to read in session. His friend and fellow officer Robert Graves, knowing that Sassoon would be facing a court martial, claims the statement was due to battle fatigue and has him sent to Craiglockhaven for treatment. Dr. Rivers's task is to get Sassoon to agree to return to the front. Other patients include the young poet Wilfred Owen and Billy Priot, a young man who can't eat after having been blown into the decomposing body of a German soldier. A fascinating look at the social pressure put on young men during the war, as well as the effects of the war on people and relationahips and of the treatment of the psychological scars it caused.
I didn't expect to care much for this book as I'm not all that interested in Greek myths and heroes--but what an unexpected surprise! I am so glad that I listened to the recommendation of other LTers and decided to give The Song of Achilles a go. Once I started, it was impossible to put it aside--a rare enough occurence, but rarer still when you already know how the story will end. That can only be attirbuted to Madeline Miller's gift for storytelling. Gone are the sometimes stilted characterizations of the original (due in part, no doubt, to weak translations). While the heroes here remain monumental, they are also complex men whose thoughts and emotions are all too human. While Miller never lets us forget that Achilles himself is the son of a goddess, we also see within him the vulnerability of the human condition.
The familiar story is narrated by Patroclus, Achilles's best loved companion. The son of a king sent into exile for making a tragic but shameful mistake, Patroclus befreinds the admired Achilles at the age of twelve. Miller takes us through their upbringing at the court of Peleus and their training with the centaur Chieron and on through the Trojan War, where both eventually meet their final fates. She fleshes out not only the shadowy character of Patroclus but also Thetis, Achilles's goddess-mother, his father Peleus, Chieron, Odysseus, Menalaus, Briseis, and others; and she even manages to make the exhausting battle scenes thrilling.
Perhaps the best compliment I can give to The Song of Achilles is that it has made me want to reread The Iliad.
What a wonderful book! At the beginning, Henry has died, and Will has found the diary he supposedly kept since his youth. He sends it to the daughter of Anne Boleyn's sister Mary, who he believes is in truth Henry's daughter. Will, whose father died when he was very young, does this because he believes that a child should know his or her father.
George has really done her research, but instead of ploddign through history, she gives Henry a realistic voice that is at time maddening, at other times sympathetic; in other words, she turns this huge historical figure into a man, like others, with both strengths and weaknesses. The interjections by Will, who, despite his cynical tone, obviously loved Henry, give us further insights into his character. Along the way, she gives us a delightful picture of life, love, and politics at the Tudor court.
David Case is the perfect reader for this material.