Tag Archives: love story

Song of Achilles: Worth interrupting your vacation

So I know I said I was (I am!) taking a blog holiday, but I couldn’t resist checking back in to let you know about the excellent Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. You’d think that a novel about the life of Achilles and the Trojan war could only be dull (that was certainly my impression going in), but wowbamzonk but this book is great. (I’ll admit I decided to read it because it won the Orange Prize – one of the few literary prizes that I find consistently delivers an exceptional read). I’d especially recommend it for a trip to the cottage as it’s entirely engrossing, and is neither candy-fluff-mindless, nor emotionally/mentally taxing. It strikes an ideal cottage/beach balance of smart, character-driven (with the well established plot) and entertaining. 

Narrated from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles’s companion and lover, the novel explores the great love of these two figures and the way ‘forbidden’ love is navigated by family, nation and gods. The novel is roughly divided in two with the first half setting up the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, along with establishing Achilles’s god-like (or godly?) powers and the future the two men want for themselves (along with the likely future). The second half takes on the Trojan War itself, narrating battles, but more interested in how a ten year war/seige is waged and the impact on the local communities/the flourishing of camp life. 

Fascinating throughout is the extent to which Achiells is motivated by his desire for historic longevity – to be known as a hero on par with Hercules (the reader is of course more than aware that he certainly succeeds in establishing himself as a legendary hero) – and his willingness to sacrifice – almost – anything to gain this longevity. For Patroclus motivations are more nobel, but no less ambitious: he wants the same for Achilles, but he wants – more modestly – their life together to continue in perpetuity. The way the two work together to secure Achilles his heroic claim is a study in expressions of love and sacrifice for love. I do think the rendering of Patroclus as (ultimately) the ‘greater’ Greek is fascinating as it sets up an alternate portrait of heroics: not battle success, but self-sacrifice, gentleness and, crucically, care for the vulnerable. 

So yes. I resolve to get back to vacation, but let my eagerness to post this be evidence of the quality of the book and not (as is also likely the case) my inability to take a proper rest. 

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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, Orange Prize, Prize Winner

Eleanor and Park: Why did I like it so much?

eleanorIn contrast to my experience reading Vernon God Little, here’s my post about Eleanor and Park that has been languishing as a draft (no memory or writing this! evidence that it’s important for me to blog or else I’ll forget it all!)

If novels are supposed to connect us to stories outside and beyond ourselves, they are also supposed to help us illuminate truths about our own experience that we might not properly understand (or have allowed ourselves to think too much about). Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park did the latter for me. Even while the novel details experiences I definitely did not have — falling/being in love as a teenager, listening to and appreciating music (I do have a distinct memory of being in grade eight and willing myself to listen to the radio thinking that I’d fit in better if I could sing ‘Barbie Girl’ with the rest of the girls in my class), growing up in an abusive household — its exploration of what it is and feels like to doubt yourself, to doubt your worth/love-ability resonated across both characters.

And… that’s where the draft ends. So… in one of the less-awesome posts I’ve ever written (and about one of the more-awesome books I’ve ever read) I’ll leave it at this. With opportunity to revise if I ever manage to get my little book club together (this is meant to be our first book).

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Filed under Fiction, Prize Winner, Young Adult Fiction