Bloomsbury £7.99 (352pp) £7.59 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Song of Achilles, By Madeline Miller
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books, 2013, and is currently a judge of the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, and the Independent Scholastic New Children's Prize 2014.
Friday 20 April 2012
Others before Miller have written imaginative riffs on Homer's epics, not least Margaret Atwood in her witty and wise The Penelopiad. Yet Miller's fantastic first novel – shortlisted for the Orange Prize this week – seems singular in its scope and scholarship.
This is a retelling of the Illiad from the point of view of a young prince called Patroclus, exiled for accidentally killing a man, who falls head-over-heels in love with the brave Achilles.
Miller, an American classics expert, has combined scholarship with imagination to turn the most familiar of war epics into a fresh, emotionally riveting and sexy page-turner.
Patroclus follows Achilles into war, but it is their magnificent and very modern love story that makes this an epic.
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