In Ancient Greece in the Company of Heroes

orange Jan July

It’s Orange July and I have read an Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction) winner. It’s by a Brown alum (EVER TRUE!) who was there after we were. She’s made a marvelous use of her Classics degree in crafting The Song of Achilles. My review from Goodreads, including an excerpt is below.

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“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 could not sing. The best that could be said of me was that I was not sickly. The colds and cramps that seized my peers left me untouched. This only made my father suspicious. Was I a changeling, inhuman? He scowled at me, watching. My hand shook, feeling his gaze. And there was my mother, dribbling wine on herself.”

I’m amused at myself for having dreaded this novel despite its awards and great reviews. I think I had an unexplored bias against Greek myths–thinking they were dull, I knew them, etc. I am so glad to have overcome the prejudice and tackled this one! As it turned out, it was beautifully written, deeply moving, and made me want to know how much of the text came from other works and myths. The Song of Achilles is a book of many passions: love, jealousy, pride, greed. Its drama plays out among a colorful and fascinating group of characters and through the marvelous narrative voice of Patroclus, lover of Achilles, disowned and exiled from his own royal family as a boy. His introduction to his family life above reveals much about his powers of observation and description. I loved him and empathized at once.

I did the version of the book during my commute and can recommend it highly. The narration was clear and well inflected. If you haven’t had the pleasure of this novel, grab it soon.

View all my reviews

Progress report:

Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 18
Asia/Mideast: 5 (Israel, China, Afghanistan, Japan, Iran)
Africa: 1 (Madagascar)
Europe: 7 (England/UK, Ireland, Monaco, Poland, Spain, Italy, Greece)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 3 (US, Cuba, Haiti)
Oceania: 1 (Fiji)
South America:
Extra: 1 (Scotland)

Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 11 (CA, CO, GA, LA, MA, MN, MS, NM NY, PA, RI)

1001 Books (goal 52): 15

A to Z challenge (must be completed in order–26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!): 11
Authors: Auster, Beinart, Chandler, Donovan, Eugenides, Faulkner, Grau, Hosseini, Ishiguro, Joyce, King, Lewis, Murakami


About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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