We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

Reviews of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles

A Novel

by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller X
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2012, 384 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2012, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller's page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

The legend begins...

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. "The best of all the Greeks" - strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess - Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine - much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles's mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller's page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

Chapter 1

My father was a king and the son of kings. He was a short man, as most of us were, and built like a bull, all shoulders. He married my mother when she was fourteen and sworn by the priestess to be fruitful. It was a good match: she was an only child, and her father's fortune would go to her husband.

He did not find out until the wedding that she was simple. Her father had been scrupulous about keeping her veiled until the ceremony, and my father had humored him. If she was ugly, there were always slave girls and serving boys. When at last they pulled off the veil, they say my mother smiled. That is how they knew she was quite stupid. Brides did not smile.

When I was delivered, a boy, he plucked me from her arms and handed me to a nurse. In pity, the midwife gave my mother a pillow to hold instead of me. My mother hugged it. She did not seem to notice a change had been made.

Quickly, I became a disappointment: small, slight. I was not fast. I was not strong. I ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. In the Iliad, Patroclus is a relatively minor character. Why do you think the author chose him to be her narrator? Which other figures in the story might make interesting narrators?
  2. Near the beginning of their friendship, Achilles tells his father that he values Patroclus because "he is surprising." What do you think Achilles means by that? How is Patroclus different from the other foster boys? Why?
  3. What do you think are the reasons behind Thetis' opposition to Patroclus?
  4. How do the boys change during their time with Chiron? Do the centaur's lessons continue to be a guiding force in their lives?
  5. On the island of Scyros, what motivates Deidameia's desire to speak to Patroclus alone? What does she hope to achieve?
  6. To what extent does ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!
  • award image

    Women's Prize for Fiction
    2012

  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Most readers who enjoy historical fiction will find something to love about this book. Miller's writing is beautiful, and that in itself is worth the price of admission. The moving, romantic nature of the narrative is nicely balanced with tales of heroism, particularly once the scene shifts to the Trojan War. This debut is a definite winner...continued

Full Review (538 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

O, The Oprah Magazine
You don't need to be familiar with Homer's The Iliad (or Brad Pitt's Troy, for that matter) to find Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles spellbinding... her explorations of ego, grief, and love's many permutations are both familiar and new... [A] timeless love story.

Vogue
A psychologically astute Iliad prelude featuring the heady, star-crossed adolescence of future heroes Patroclus and Achilles.

London Times Literary Supplement (UK)
In the tradition of Mary Renault... Miller draws on her knowledge of classical sources wisely… Well-paced, engaging and tasteful.

The Daily Mail (UK)
Extraordinary… Beautifully descriptive and heartachingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find.

The Guardian (UK)
Miller’s prose is more poetic than almost any translation of Homer… This is a deeply affecting version of the Achilles story: a fully three-dimension man - a son, a father, husband and lover - now exists where a superhero previously stood and fought.

The Independent (UK)
Miller somehow (and breathtakingly so) mixes high-action commercial plotting with writing of such beautiful delicacy you sometimes have to stop and stare.

The Times (London)
A captivating retelling of The Iliad and events leading up to it through the point of view of Patroclus: it’s a hard book to put down, and any classicist will be enthralled by her characterisation of the goddess Thetis, which carries the true savagery and chill of antiquity.

Library Journal
Starred Review. A modern take on The Iliad, full of love and feats of glory and told in an open, lyric, loose-limbed fashion that should appeal to many readers... historical fiction fans, get in on the ground floor.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Masterfully brings to life an imaginative yet informed vision of ancient Greece featuring divinely human gods and larger-than-life mortals. She breaks new ground retelling one of the world's oldest stories about men in love and war [and] extraordinary women.

Author Blurb Ann Patchett, bestselling author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder
At once a scholar's homage to The Iliad and a startlingly original work of art by an incredibly talented new novelist. Madeline Miller has given us her own fresh take on the Trojan war and its heroes. The result is a book I could not put down.

Author Blurb Catherine Conybeare, Professor of Classics, Bryn Mawr College
Although the details of the story are Miller's own, the world is one that all who love the Iliad and its epigones will recognize. Reading this book recalled me to the breathless sense of the ancient yet present that I felt when I first fell in love with the classics.

Author Blurb Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of Room
Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories.

Author Blurb Helen Simonson, bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
I loved this book. The language was timeless, the historical details were slipped in perfectly. I hope Song of Achilles becomes part of the high school summer reading lists alongside Penepoliad.

Author Blurb Zachary Mason, author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey
The Iliad turns on Achilles' pride and his relationship with Patroclus, but Homer is sparing with the personal - so much so that, though we believe in their friendship, we do not understand it. The Song of Achilles brings light to their love. This is a beautiful book.

Reader Reviews

Sam

One of the best books I have ever read
I finished this book rather quickly, I was unable to put it out of my hands.
Lilly

Song of Achilles
I love the amount of work had been put into the book.
Nami

Bro
Honestly one of the best books I've ever read. Like the writing style was top notch and the way the author described every moment was so alluring, truly a 10/10.
CHAKA

My god it is so beautiful.
Honestly one of the best retelling books I have ever read. The detailed but concise writing really explained the events. The gayness is the cherry on top.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Evolution of Achilles

The name Achilles has become synonymous with great strength and invulnerability, however to the ancient Greeks it had quite a different meaning. "Achilles" itself is a Westernization; the hero's name is better translated Akhilleus and pronounced "a-hee-LAY-us," and is of unknown and possibly pre-Greek origin. It is a combination of two words: Akhos ("grief") and Laos ("people or tribe"). It's possible that the name is derived from the Akheloos River in in western Greece, although several sources have interpreted it to mean that Achilles was the "embodiment of the grief of the people" or that he was the "hero of grief;" others construe it to mean "grief to the enemy."

The tale of Achilles and the Trojan War is one of the most well-...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Song of Achilles, try these:

  • After Sappho jacket

    After Sappho

    by Selby Wynn Schwartz

    Published 2024

    About this book

    An exhilarating debut from a radiant new voice, After Sappho reimagines the intertwined lives of feminists at the turn of the twentieth century.

  • Elektra jacket

    Elektra

    by Jennifer Saint

    Published 2023

    About this book

    More by this author

    A spellbinding reimagining of the story of Elektra, one of Greek mythology's most infamous heroines, from Jennifer Saint, the author of the beloved international bestseller, Ariadne.

We have 10 read-alikes for The Song of Achilles, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Madeline Miller
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Neighbors and Other Stories
    Neighbors and Other Stories
    by Diane Oliver
    The history of American segregation, along with changes to it in the 1960s, is sometimes taught and ...
  • Book Jacket: Wild and Distant Seas
    Wild and Distant Seas
    by Tara Karr Roberts
    Tara Karr Roberts is a newspaper columnist who also teaches English and journalism. Wild and Distant...
  • Book Jacket: The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    by Shubnum Khan
    Shubnum Khan's eloquent and moving debut novel opens in 1932, when a djinn that haunts a house by ...
  • Book Jacket: Transient and Strange
    Transient and Strange
    by Nell Greenfieldboyce
    Throughout her powerful essay collection, Transient and Strange, science reporter Nell ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mockingbird Summer
by Lynda Rutledge
A powerful and emotional coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s by the bestselling author of West with Giraffes.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Leaving
    by Roxana Robinson

    An engrossing exploration of the vows we make to one another and what we owe to others and ourselves.

  • Book Jacket

    The Adversary
    by Michael Crummey

    An enthralling novel about a small town struggling to survive, and a bitter vendetta between two rivals.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.