The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, narrated by Frazer Douglas
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by Ecco, both imprints of HarperCollins
Apart from Odysseus, the best-known character in The Iliad is probably Achilles, he of the infamous heel. Readers of Homer’s famous work have long been perplexed by the way the hero mourns for an otherwise very minor character, Patroclus. From this question of why Patroclus’s death so affects Achilles, author Madeline Miller has created a shared past and love story for the two men, beginning with Patroclus’s exile from his own kingdom and his placement at the court of Achilles’s father.
Thoughts on the story:
The Song of Achilles is beautifully written and beautifully imagined. Miller has given these characters of Greek myth true depth and real life, complete with love, pain, and pride. The pace does not lag during their childhood, nor during the repetition of a decade-long siege on Troy. The story is told from Patroclus’s point of view, which seems to be a wise decision, it is much easier to narrate from the perspective of a more minor character, there are fewer worries about conflicting with the original story, although Miller still had to make sure that Achilles’s details mesh with the original narrative. The Song of Achilles works even for those who have only a vague familiarity with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, however. Both of these works are enough in the Western consciousness that most readers will have a decent background for the story, and Miller does a good job of introducing characters from Patroclus’s point of view so they are familiar to readers without seeming overly explanatory to those who know The Iliad better.
Thoughts on the audio production:
This was my first experience with Frazer Douglas’s narration, and I was certainly impressed. He drew me right into Miller’s story, and kept me rapt through the entire listen. He has a sonorous voice and a great delivery.
Miller’s gorgeous and moving story would work well in print as well, but Frazer Douglas’s narration adds a little something extra to the audio edition. Highly recommended.
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