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review 2018-01-31 14:43
Circe
Circe - Madeline Miller

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]

A few years ago, I had read and really liked “The Song of Achilles”, and I had high hopes for Miller’s “Circe”. I wasn’t disappointed.

A retelling of myths surrounded Circe, daughter of sun-god Helios and nymph Perses, this novel focuses of course on the eponymous character, from a much more humanised point of view, making her closer to us and easier to root for. I haven’t brushed up on my Greek mythology in quite some time, and my memories of what I knew about Circe were a bit foggy, but I quickly found my marks again—the deities she’s surrounded with, the mortals she meets (Odysseus being the most famous), as well as slight variations (although I don’t remember reading myths where Circe and Daedalus meet, that was definitely a touching addition, and not an illogical one anyway).

I do remember how, when I was much younger and got interested in Greek mythology, most of the legends I read were the usual male-centric ones, with figures like Circe or Medusa presented as antagonists, somewhat evil and monstrous, impediments to the heroes’ journeys. So whenever I get my hands on a retelling from their point of view, and it happens to be humanised and qualified *and* well-written on top of that, as is the case here, I’m definitely happy about it. Here, turning Odysseus’ men is much less an act of evil than a way for Circe to defend herself before the sailors do to her what previous sailors did (and she doesn’t do it immediately, she does ‘give them a chance’ and studies them first to see how they’re going to behave). Here, the heroes are larger than life, but through Circe’s gaze, we also see their mortality and the imperfections that go with it, the difference between what the bards sing of them and the men they actually were.

No one is perfect in this story; not Circe herself, not the gods, not the humans. In a way, even though half the cast is made of immortal deities, this novel is a study of humanity. Circe’s voice—a voice the gods perceive as shrilly, but is in fact, all that simply, a mortal’s voice, soft and weak compared to theirs—has a haunting quality, too, thanks to the poetic and evocative prose that carries the story. And so it takes us through her contradictions, her pain and hopes, her realisation that she’ll never get her father’s approval, her exile, and her lingering her regrets at what she did in the past (Miller went here with a version similar to Hyginus’, making Circe the cause to Scylla’s transformation, as well as Glaucus’ through her first act of witchcraft). From a little girl neglected by her parents and bullied by her siblings, she goes through life making mistakes, angry and exiled, but also learns from this, and becomes in time a wiser person, who won’t hesitate to stand up for what she cares for, using her magic to better ends.

This read was perhaps a little confusing without more than just a basic notions about Greek mythology (the glossary at the end helps, though). I’m also not entirely happy with the ending, which I probably would have enjoyed more had it been reversed. Nevertheless, I found it mostly enjoyable and enthralling.

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review 2017-08-20 07:19
Song of Achilles: Or, heartbreaking epic romance
 The Song of Achilles: A Novel - Madeline Miller

I wasn't originally interested in reading this book, but after a couple people (whose opinions I trust) recommended it I thought I at least owed it a try. I wouldn't say I'm an expert on the Greeks, but I would say I'm a fan. I know the story of the Illiad, and I'm familiar with Achilles and some of the mythology surrounding him. That's honestly part of why I was originally disinterested - Achilles is a bit of an arrogant ass. That foreknowledge, however, also contributed to what ultimately made this book so achingly sad.

This book broke my heart on every page. In a good way. Miller's prose is wonderful. She does an amazing job of bringing her settings and characters to life. I felt like I was there, in the castles and caves, and on the beaches and battlefields. I was completely transported. The Gods that walked through the pages felt as natural as the wind and the sea, never once breaking the tone of the book, or making it feel fantastical. Patroclus and Achilles became real, and their relationship was one I both believed and invested in, despite knowing how their story would end.

This book is amazingly well written, genuinely romantic without being sentimental, and truly heartbreaking in the best possible way. An epic romance in the truest sense.

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text 2017-08-02 19:57
The Song of Achilles - DNF at 61%
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller

I´m done. I can´t take anymore of this:

 

"This, out of all of it, was perhaps the strangest: that he was their commander now. He would be expected to know them all, their names and armor and stories. He no longer belongs to me alone."

 

"Peleus stood at the shore´s edge, one hand raised in farewell. True to his word, Achilles had not told him of the prophecy, merely hugged him tightly, as if to soak the old man into his skin. I had embraced him too, those thin, wiry limbs. I thought, This is what Achilles will feel like when he is old. And then I remember: he will never be old."

 

"I handed him bits of leather and metal as he gestured for them, coverings for his upper thighs, his arms, his belly. I watched him strap these things on, one by one, saw the stiff leather dig into his soft flesh, skin that only last night I had traced with my finger."

 

God, I´m bored. Reading the Illiad at the same time as this book just shows how mediocre The Song of Achilles actually is. Don´t get me wrong, Madeline Miller has put a tremendous effort into researching the myth and she stays very true to the Illiad. The thing I can´t get over with is the fact that her main focus lies on the awful romance between Achilles and Patroclus. 

 

I´ve read 61% of the book and even though I haven´t finished this book I will give it a one star rating. And now I will go back reading Homer.

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text 2017-08-01 17:12
Reading progress update: I've read 36%.
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
Ilias - Homer,Karl Ferdinand Lempp

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Illiad told from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles loyal friend, companion during the Trojan war and his possible love interest. You might have guessed it already, this is fan-fiction for all the Patroclus/Achilles shippers out there.

 

I have a basic knowledge of the Iliad (I haven´t read it), so when it comes to the story this book is as exciting as athlete´s foot. Still, this is the reason why I keep on reading this novel:

 

People die

(spoiler show)

 

I can´t wait for the moment when they are going to war and the spoiler becomes reality. This novel is a YA romance in the disguise of historical fantasy. I´m not amused.

 

So far the book has been about Patroclus and Achilles, growing up together, staying on a mountain with Chiron (yes, the half horse-half-man-guy) and falling in love. Add to that Achilles´ manipulating and somewhat evil mother Thetis (who is great, btw) and you get a lot of angst, jealousy and lovey-dovey.

 

Achilles might be the best warrior ever in existence, but so far he has done absolutely nothing and he is a kind of a push over when it comes to his mother. But he has a great body and he is so beautiful, and his chin and his jaw are pure perfection. Up until now I don´t know if Patroclus loves Achilles for some other qualities than his drool-worthy body. 

And I don´t think that Achilles is the sharpest tool in the shed. After having snatched Achilles from Patroclus side (she basically abducted him because she can´t stand these two together, but whatever), his mother promises him to tell Patroclus where he is staying if he is having sex with a woman.

 

memes confused how really funny memes GIF

[Source]

 

Does that make sense? No, not really. Achilles has the sex anyway because he is utterly gullible (and he desperately wants Patroclus back because they are so in love).

 

And then there is Patroclus. Some of you might remember the Twilight movie scene where sparkling vampire guy nearly gets killed by the Volturi. This could easily be Patroclus:

 

 

twilight bella swan new moon kristens stewart GIF

[Source]

 

Please tell me, am I the only one who is freaked out by these obsessive, almost stalkerish kind of characters? He gives me the shivers.

 

One character I really loved, even though he only had a minor appearance so far, is Odysseus. I can´t wait to read more about him and his scheming ways.

 

Btw, I´m going to read the German prose version of the Iliad as soon as I´m done with this book. This book might not do a lot for me, but it definitely peaked my interest in the original text. 

 

 

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review 2017-06-26 06:36
The Song of Achilles
The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller

Things I knew before reading the book:
It’s very gay

Things I knew after reading the book:
It sucks to be a woman in the Iliad*
I know nothing about the Iliad

Tumblr did me better when it made me read The Secret History.

 

I’ve been trying to fill the void The Queen’s Thief series left in my life, and I thought TSoA (combined with several other things) might do it. The prose is too flowery for my taste and

the change from past tense to present tense at the end was definitely noticeable. It pulled me out of the story for a couple of pages. Miller does pretty successfully kill off her first person narrator though. So that's something.

(spoiler show)

I am currently feeling inspired to read The Iliad (whether I actually follow through or not remains to be seen… there are so many translations and my branch of the library doesn’t have the one I want to read and it’s risky placing a hold since I could get the “wrong” translation if someone’s not paying attention).

 

*Briseis is the best character and where's my book about her?

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