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Publisher's Summary

The legend begins...

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

©2012 Madeline Miller (P)2012 HarperCollinsPublishers

Critic Reviews

“[Miller] makes a persuasive argument for the timeliness of her subject. …Miller’s winning debut focuses on Patroclus, a young prince living in Achilles’ golden shadow. Miller also gives voice to many of the women who were also consigned to the shadows.” ( Publishers Weekly, Spring 2012 Preview, Top 10 Literary Fiction)
“You don’t need to be familiar with Homer’s The Iliad (or Brad Pitt’s Troy, for that matter) to find Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles spellbinding....her explorations of ego, grief, and love’s many permutations are both familiar and new....[A] timeless love story.” ( O magazine)
“A psychologically astute Iliad prelude featuring the heady, star-crossed adolescence of future heroes Patroclus and Achilles.” ( Vogue)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Wasn't Expecting to Like It- BOY! was I wrong!!

What did you love best about The Song of Achilles?

I was familiar with Greek myths- have been fascinated with them since my fifth grade teacher had lived in Greece and fueled my interest and imagination. The author does a magical job of bringing these ancient characters to life and making them human (even if they are gods or half-god).

What other book might you compare The Song of Achilles to and why?

Any Greek tragedy, this book has all the same elements-nosey gods interfering in human lives, conflict, hubris, a tragic hero....

Which scene was your favorite?

So many! I especially liked the scenes describing characters within the myths; Achilles and. Patroclus (of course), Odysseus, Agamemnon, King Menelaus, Achilles' mother-I really enjoyed her characterizations and the narrator's interpretation of their voices. The voice of Achilles' mother was deliciously villainous and hard to forget.

Who was the most memorable character of The Song of Achilles and why?

Patroclus because he wasn't as weak as people thought he was and Achilles because he becomes more that a one dimensional hero.

Any additional comments?

I have seen a few comments that describe this book as "homo porn" and "explicit". I would like to respectfully disagree. This book is set in a different culture and time-the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles has been discussed for HUNDREDS of years. This author isn't presenting some new fangled twist or a new interpretation of the story. If that makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps this story isn't for you. Any explicit sex scenes- hetero or homo- make me uncomfortable. I'd like to add that I am a middle aged, married, goes-to-church- three-times-a-week Christian. I am also someone who enjoys well written literature. The two main characters are in a committed relationship and the intimate scenes are more like the old movies where the camera pans up to an open window and the wind gently blows the curtains- things implied but not expressed. The plot is not based on these scenes nor are they gratuitous. They are important because they show the depth of their love and respect and this is really relevant towards the second half of the book and explains their actions and choices. I put off buying this book for some time because of these comments and am so thankful that I overcame my doubts and purchased this book. If you enjoy a beautifully written story (and a well narrated one as well) I encourage you to give this one a try. I'm glad I did.

309 of 316 people found this review helpful

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Excellent story/narrator

Very good story, very good narrator. Madeline and Frazer had me from the first sentence and didn't let me go. I was mesmerized. Madeline Miller's novel is a thing of quality and Frazer Douglas' voice was pitch perfect. I loved listening to him. I highly recommend this book.

BTW - I hesitate to even dignify this with a response but the reviewer who called this novel "Breathy homo erotica"... couldn't be further from the truth. This novel has no erotica in it whatsoever. It has no explicit sexual scenes. It does have a romance and the romance is very tastefully done.

214 of 220 people found this review helpful

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Didn't Expect to Like It, but I Was Swept Away

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.

122 of 127 people found this review helpful

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Awesome

Admittedly, I do love Greek mythology. As a high school English teacher, I teach the Odyssey in class, as well as many of the short stories, so I figured I would like this book. However, I really LOVED this book. First, it was extremely well read. I felt like I was listening to a bard of old telling the story. Second, the author sticks to the basics of the Iliad story quite well. However, she is creative with adding in details that make sense but we may have never thought of. I love how she wove in the different characters and even made Agammemon the jerk that I always thought he was. In the past, I had seen Achilles as a bit of a whiny baby, not wanting to fight due to a girl being taken from him. However, Miller makes us see the story from Patroclus' point of view and Achilles is far from the whiny brat of old. She changes the story to suit her characters, but it all makes sense with what we know of Greek mythology. I was so sad when this book ended and have already recommended it to my high school seniors as a great companion to our study of the Odyssey. Highly highly recommend, but especially if you like Greek myths.

37 of 39 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A different take on the Iliad

While it does deal with the Trojan war and it's main participants, this is first and foremost a love story about Patroclus, a rather ordinary and not particularly talented or attractive young man, and the god-like hero Achilles. Patroclus tells us about his early childhood as a prince who couldn't live up to his father's expectations and his subsequent banishment, whereupon he is sent to live among a gaggle of boys trained to become soldiers by none other than Achilles's father. All the boys venerate Achilles for his great beauty and grace, for he is in fact the son of a goddess and as such possesses special gifts. Seemingly out of the blue one day, Achilles chooses Patroclus to be his close companion. Why he chose Patroclus, who had nothing to distinguish himself from the others, was shy and uncommunicative isn't made clear in the story, but nonetheless the boys end up spending most of their young lives together while a strong bond is formed, and eventually come to be lovers. When the war on Troy is declared, both Patroclus and Achilles are sought out by Odysseus to join the war effort. Everyone knows that Achilles is destined to be the greatest warrior of his generation, and everyone also knows about the prophesy which dooms Achilles to die shortly after having killed Hector.

Beautifully told, this story brings mythical characters to life and makes even fantastical creatures, such as a centaur and sea goddess seem absolutely believable as essential elements in the narrative. A very interesting take on a mythical tale, this made me badly want to revisit The Iliad—in fact, I almost wished I'd read it first to refresh my memory, but this is by no means essential to fully appreciate The Song of Achilles. In fact, it may be better to come to this story fresh because I know for a fact Madeline Miller took plenty of liberties with her retelling, which could bother purists. I wasn't particularly taken with the homoerotic elements of the story, but then I'm not a fan of "straight" romance and erotica either as it's all cringeworthy to me.

Frazer Douglas was an excellent narrator and added greatly to my enjoyment of this book.

37 of 40 people found this review helpful

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Old story. New telling.

What a remarkable achievement! The author expands the story of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus into a compelling book. Through this relationship, she adds life to the story of the Trojan War with its mingling of mortals, gods, goddesses, kings and heroes. Ms. Miller's prose is remarkable and unselfconsciously poetic. Homeric! Frazer Douglas does an intimate and perfect performance of the elegant writing.

AND I learned quite a bit about the Trojan War that I never knew or had forgotten!

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Absolutely Fabulous Retelling

I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling of Achilles' story, culminating with his role in the mythic Trojan War. The characters are so fully realized they jump off the pages. The prose is stunningly beautiful. Even better is the narrator, whose performance is truly magnificent. Mr. Douglas portrays Patrocles with unparalleled skill. He elevates the audiobook to an art form worthy of the highest honor. This debut novel will break your heart with its loveliness. Brava, Ms. Miller!

25 of 28 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Meant to be heard

Like the epic poem it parallels, The Song of Achilles should be heard not just read. The book is filled with vivid word images; the rhythm and flow of the sentences add to the pleasure of the story. I often wished that my copy of the Iliad was closer so that I could
check Homer's version of some of the tale, especially the killing of Achilles. The best part of Miller's book is the maturing of Patroclus until he is clearly the "best" of the lot. Achilles is not the only one to benefit from the selfless love of Patroclus. I do wish the author had stopped before the final sentence. Then the book would have ended in a style appropriate to the tale and the two heroes. Frazer Douglas has the prefect voice for this book. He carefully differentiates between the characters.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Beautifully written and skillfully read

What made the experience of listening to The Song of Achilles the most enjoyable?

How beautiful to hear the story of Achilles from the voice of his beloved, Patroclus. The writing is elegantly presented, believable and inviting. How I longed for the book to continue, continue, continue. A true classic.

Any additional comments?

Unless you are homophobic, the sheer beauty of the writing, and the tonal beauty of the oral reading, will intoxicate you and invite you to share an intimate story of love and longing and fate. Your own understanding of love will be enhanced by experiencing this book.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing characterization, great performance

I had heard good things about this book, and it had been recommended to me, so I was definitely looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it did not meet my expectations.

My main problem with the book was the characterization and character development. In this story, Patroclus is stripped off the status as a great warrior he dons in Homer's Iliad, and becomes a shadow who will often dwindle in self-pity. He can't fight, and he won't even try to learn. And by the time the book ends, not much has changed in him in comparison to the time he befriended Achilles as a child, at the beginning.

The love story between Achilles and Patroclus did not have a foundation solid enough for me to become emotionally involved. Patroclus does not understand why does Achilles come to love him so much, so fast. Neither did I. Their story seemed like something out of a fairytale: beautiful on the surface, but lacking in substance, in actual development. The same could be said about Achilles himself.

Some things I did enjoy, though. Odysseus was fantastic. Some of the imagery was very interesting. And the narration was definitely very good, and what kept me going every time someone pointed out how Patroclus was pretty much useless and "could not fight".

19 of 22 people found this review helpful