The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. Pub 2012.
I wanted to have a “sure thing” in my vacation library – a book that I knew would be good and that I’d enjoy, even if all the others were bad or boring. This seemed like the ticket (based on reviews by friends), so into the bag it went. I was not disappointed.
Set in the time of the Trojan War, the story centres on the character of Patroclus, a minor but essential character in the story/history. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles (who himself needs no introduction) provides the novel’s main story, with the historical elements serving as backdrop or context for that. Throughout are the heroes and gods of the time, larger than life and making mischief and heartache for all.
I really enjoyed this book, and am kind of glad I saved it till the end of the trip as it would have been much harder to get through the awful books after reading this one. The writing is very good; there is a good balance of background, description, and dialogue, and the story moves along at a good pace. As with Circe, Miller is able to humanize the immortals, making them relatable and empathetic (something I’m sure they’d hate). More significantly to me, she is able to portray the male characters (for they are mostly male by necessity in this Trojan War tale) realistically and with clarity and feeling. Miller pulls an obscure character from history/historical literature, and makes a ‘what if’ tale that is is wholly engaging, moving, and fun.
I now wish Miller had more books available, as I’d read more of them if I could. Like so many, I’ll now just wait for her next one.
Fate: give to a friend.
6 – an author’s debut novel
7 – a book with a female author
12 – a book set somewhere you’ve never been
13 – a book with someone’s name in the title
NB – this one might end up getting dropped from the list, as these categories are already well represented. I will need to do more targeted selections for the remainder of the year in order to cover all the categories.