Archive for June, 2013

Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles

June 18, 2013

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Madeline Miller’s debut novel, The Song of Achilles, offers a fresh take on the story of Homer’s Iliad by focusing on the relationship between Achilles, the epic’s hero, and Patroclus, his lover. More broadly the book transforms an ancient martial epic into a modern novel by looking at the internal lives of the characters and their feelings towards one another. In addition to love,┬áMiller also addresses questions connected with war, honor, and pride. Miller claims that she worked on the novel for ten years, and I would say that the result is well-worth the effort. The Song of Achilles is not only a great retelling of a classic, but moreover a work in its own right that will stick with you long after you finish the book.

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David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas

June 18, 2013

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David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is perhaps better known for its film version now, but I assure you: the book is far better. The work consists of six interconnected stories that span from the nineteenth century to a post-apocalyptic future. The stories themselves are each interesting, particularly those set before the current time. Personally I found the few vignettes set in the imagined future the least compelling, perhaps because they struck me as almost caricatures of a possible future. Together, the six tales explore key questions about human nature. Similar challenges and moral questions arise in all the narratives. The issues play out in different ways depending on the precise circumstances, but the larger concern with how people relate to one another link the stories together. Overall, the book lives up to its hype and rewards readers who enjoy trying to see the connecting threads between not-fully-distinct tales.