The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The classic tales of Greek heros and gods have always intrigued me. What was their purpose in telling these stories? What were they trying to explain? The complicated relationships between the gods and humans and the un-godlike behavior and emotions ascribed to the gods seemed strange and contradictory. But Madeline Miller takes all of these ingredients and re-imagines these stories and their contradictions and creates a context where they come to life in profound ways.

The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War started by Paris, a prince of Troy stealing Helen, the most beautiful women in the world from a Greek King.  Achilles, greatest warrior of his time, is also called to fight with the Greeks but he does so reluctantly causing distrust and suspicion in the other kings, especially Agamemnon. This distrust comes to a head when Agamemnon claims the slave girl, Bries, who had been given to Achilles as his share of war booty. Achilles feeling that his honor has been violated refuses to fight any further and the  tides of war turn against the Greeks quickly, with the Trojans breaking into the Greek encampment and threatening to rout them. Seeing the danger they are in Patroclus, Achilles’ friend and companion, puts on Achilles armor and gets in his chariot and rallies the Greeks and turns the tide and almost breaches the walls of Troy before he is stopped by Hector of Troy who kills him. Distraught by the death of Patroclus, Achilles ferociously seeks revenge for his death. Challenging Hector in single combat, Achilles kills him and then in defiance to tradition and the gods, desecrates Hector’s corpse by dragging him around the city until Paris kills Achilles by shooting an arrow from the walls of the city of Troy.

From these bare bones, Miller weaves a story of love, honor, the burden of enormous expectations and the misery of stubbornness told from the perspective of Achilles friend, companion and lover, Patroclus who reveals Achilles with both a clear eyed reality and a deep abiding love-showing us both his profound strengths and destructive weaknesses. Miller who is both a scholar and teacher of the Classics, has created something uniquely original while giving homage to these classic texts of western civilization.

Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)

Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian, Lauren and Keith

Book Study Worthy? Yes

Read in ebook format.

 

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This entry was posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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