Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The wars of Troy bring home the myth of Achilles, the greatest warrior the world has ever known. Achilles died in Troy, but it was his intervention that ended that long, tortuous conflict begun to return Helen to her husband Menelaus when she was stolen by Paris of Troy. As one might expect, the old story apparently has more than one interpretation, and Miller takes advantage of these discrepancies to make the story her own.
I listened to the audiofile of this book very ably narrated by Frazer Douglas, and enjoyed the oral storytelling tradition long heralded by mythmakers. Miller’s story starts slowly, developing the loving relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, and builds to the Trojan War and Achilles’ final end. Truthfully, I could have done with a greatly truncated romantic introduction, but I am sure this added to the appeal of the book for some, and gave doubters time to lose their inhibitions about reading of ancient times.
One is awash in familiar names by the end of the story, which feels very modern and accessible. Intimate details about Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Hector makes the book live. This is entirely appropriate as these myths are meant to live and we should be reminded of them again and again as they still tell us of human greed, goodness, and greatness. I must say, however, that I will never again think of Achilles without imagining a young Brad Pitt as our hero, for he took the role of Achilles in the 2004 movie Troy and Madeline Miller’s descriptions mirror Pitt’s lavish gifts admirably.
This book has won the 2012 Orange Prize, a UK cash prize awarded for originality, excellence and accessibility in fiction by women.
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