Madeline Miller: The Song of Achilles
Tuesday October 23, 2012
Madeline Miller, winner of the 2012 Orange Prize, read from and discussed her debut novel, The Song of Achilles.
About The Song of Achilles:
Madeline Miller’s sparkling debut novel and winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction is a thrilling and unique retelling of the Iliad and the legend of Achilles: a tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart—a dazzling feat of the imagination that is sure to be one of the most unusual debuts of the season. Not only does Miller’s novel build on the groundwork of The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Aeneid, but her retelling is page-turning, profoundly moving, blisteringly paced, and utterly accessible, marking the launch of a dazzling literary career.
Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.
The “best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess and a man — Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences and the fury of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals, the boys become steadfast companions, their bond deepening into love as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine.
When word comes that Helen, wife of Menelaus, has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and Patroclus follows, little knowing that the years that the cruel Fates will test them as never before, and demand a terrible sacrifice.
In the author’s own words about why she decided to focus on Achilles relationship with Patroclus, she says, “I had been deeply moved by Achilles’ story ever since I first read The Iliad. His grief over Patroclus’ death is shockingly raw, and I was fascinated by this man whose loss had so devastated the great Achilles. I wanted to understand their connection, and why such an “ordinary” man mattered so much.”
Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, has a BA and MA from Brown University in Latin and Ancient Greek, and has been teaching both for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales to a modern audience. She grew up in New York City and Philadelphia, but now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.