Wow-za. Madeline Miller's Orange Prize-winning novel, The Song of Achilles, has been a big winner in the blogosphere for a long time now. I downloaded it ages ago, but I just got to it because I included it on a list of books I wanted to read before the summer was out. I'm REALLY glad I picked this book up.
Expounding on and reimagining the story of Achilles from The Iliad, Miller's novel embellishes the relationship between the exiled Patroclus and the half-god, hero-to-be, Achilles. They meet in childhood and become fast friends. When Achilles is sent off to Mount Pelion to train with the centaur, Chiron, the boys' relationship blossoms into love.
From what I can tell from Googling, Patroclus and Achilles were known to be close companions in the epic, but it was never entirely clear whether it was an intimate relationship or a strong friendship. It doesn't really matter--this book is breathtaking in Miller's imagining.
The first half of this novel was probably my favorite. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the second half, but the first half really delved into the boys' growing up years. Their time with Chiron, spent learning to track, to navigate the forest, and live off the land was interesting in its details and set the stage for ALL THE FIGHTING and political intrigue of the Trojan War in the second half.
I admit it, I've never read The Iliad. I had to read The Odyssey three times between high school and the undergraduate college years, and that sucked away some of my enthusiasm for epic poetry and mythology in general. But, I have to say, this book has really made me interested in the Trojan War and what I've missed by not reading more about it!
I'm really not doing this one justice. There's just so much to enjoy--the relationships, the action, the way Miller fleshes out a relationship and characters who were only sketches in their original mythological tellings. She truly breathes life and emotion into this story, and it was one I could not put down.
And if you hadn't heard already, Miller has a new short story available now! It's a retelling of the Galatea story, also from mythology. I've pre-ordered, and I'm ready to read
Pub. Date: August 2012
Source: Purchased by moi!