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Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

AFter reading this 2012 winner of the Orange Award, I learned that Miller studied drama at Yale and that her specialty was adapting the classic Greek and Roman myths into stage productions for modern audiences and that's when I realized that this wonderful book came "naturally" to her as a first time novelist. We are immediately transported to the Ancient Greece of the heroes that we know so well and we meet a less well known (er, ok, unknown completely) young man named Patroclus. Patroclus is a prince, who as a young boy is one of the contenders of Helen's hand and who subsequent to his rejection, killed another boy. Patroclus is, as a result, disowned and sent to Phthia as an exile to live in the palace of the king. While there, he becomes friends with Achilles, the half human/half God prince and becomes his companion. Where Patroclus is geeky and awkward, Achilles is strong, handsome and has none of the growing pains that a normal teenage boy should have. They eventually become more then companions, if you get my meaning - which is something that Achilles' goddess of a mother does not like at all.

It becomes something more than a simple re-telling. It becomes about love and betrayal and honor and pride and what happens when a person has too much of each and the lessons are told to us against the backdrop of the Trojan War. It is a war beset with massive amounts of interference on the part of the Gods, who seem fickle and are never happy with anything that happens. Miller does a magnificently seductive job of telling the story and Patroclus is very complex. While he may be pathetic when faced with the Gods and their inane ability to pull the strings of their puppet humans, Patroclus is nonetheless likeable. He's practical and down to earth - the guy that you'd be friends with because he's funny and smart and observant but approachable and humble at the same time. I really enjoyed this novel and eagerly await her next.


  1. This sounds like my kind of book. We recently saw Les Troyens at a local theater Live from the Met.


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