Saturday, November 10, 2012

Song of Achilles-Madeline Miller

Song of Achilles-Madeline Miller

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 352
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2011

"Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath."

I am so far from a classicist, I work primarily with Neolithic archaeology. As an undergrad, half of the time I felt like most classicists were only concerned with gay subtext. A department devoted to giggling sex obsessed geeks who tend towards writing fanfiction. This is a completely unfair representation of my classics department of course, but I am somewhat bitter about having to reread the Odyssey's most boring bits and being condescended to because I don't speak Ancient Greek.Thus, I really am a strange candidate to read a book based on the Illiad written by a classic professor.

Even odder, I enjoyed it. A lot. Despite the fact that it takes a bit of gay subtext and ramps it up into an overarching love story in which love tries to win at all odds (a main tenant of fanfiction). In the Illiad, Patroclus has a good relationship with his father, not so much awe of Achilles, is older than Achilles, is an active fighter, and marries a woman for love. These glaring errors didn't bother me though.

Miller writes well. The Bronze age palaces and Trojan camps are imagined as real places full of the most idealistic Greek mythical people. I actually liked it. Miller managed to artfully craft a fresh feel to a love story. She took a character I'd previously not thought about much (Patroclus) and made me start to genuinely care about him because he turns into such a complex character. Achilles turns from a brutal killer fond of games into a grieving character ultimately very sympathetic.

I give Miller all the credit. She has crafted a great love story that manages to not be saccharine using wonderfully ornate prose. Her pacing is brilliant which sweeps you straight into the story.

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