A Blog Hop

Many thanks to R J Gould for inviting me to take part in this Blog Hop. He is a writer of contemporary humorous romantic fiction and his post from last week is here. I’ve invited Thure Etzold and Les Brookes to contribute to this Blog Hop.

 What am I working on?

About a year ago I returned to a novel that I had put aside for a time, the story of a boy, Jack, born in a back-to-back slum in a midlands industrial town in the early 1800s. He’s not above some minor criminality, but he also finds work that earns some money, fetching meat from the market for the street traders, and by a stroke of luck gets a place at a charity school. This is the key to his next opportunity, because a few years after he has left school he encounters his former teacher, Sarah, who has lost her post at the school, and is now working as a dressmaker. Jack and Sarah set up in business together, and the novel explores the ups and downs of Jack’s career, and his emotional life. You can read the first chapter on this blog (click here). I’m preparing this novel, to be called Hard Lessons, for publication. I’ve just embarked on another novel, also set in the early 1800s, but this time in Portugal during the Peninsular War. James has been sent away by his father, the local landowner, who has warned him not to pay attentions to the village girls, and, when warnings proved insufficient, has purchased a commission for him in the county infantry regiment, commanded by his brother, James’ uncle. The regiment is sent to Portugal, James is wounded in one of the early battles, is taken in by two Portuguese women who nurse him, but he dies, and is buried in the graveyard by the tiny village church. The novel, working title Any Man’s Death, explores the consequences for others, such as his father, who almost immediately regrets what he has done, for his mother and for one of the village girls, Mary who gives birth to James’ child, and for other characters, even characters who never knew James. The first chapter of the novel, entitled Any Man’s Death, can also be read on this blog (click here). The title is taken from John Donne’s poem which begins ‘No man is an island’, and ends ‘never send to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee,’ and contains the working title in the lines ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.’ It’s been done before, many times, not least by a much greater writer than I will ever be, Ernest Hemingway, in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This question made me ask myself what the genre is. Although both novels are set in a historical period, and touch on actual historical events (such as the agitation before the great Reform Act of 1832, the way in which, before the Married Women’s Property Act, a woman’s property became her husband’s on marriage) I don’t think of them as historical novels, but rather as novels of relationships, and how relationships between men and women were shaped by the circumstances of the times. These novels discuss the same kind of relationships as my two earlier novels, ‘Gifts from Unfaithful Women and ‘How Does a Man Know’ (in preparation for publication – read the draft first chapter on this blog (click here), which are set in the present day. How does it differ from others of its genre? I’ll let you know when I’ve found out.

Why do I write what I do?

Why does anyone? For fun, because I enjoy writing. Because I want to explore relationships, how they form, and how they fail. How trivial events can bring about great shifts. Some authors do write for the market, and good luck to them. I’m not judging them. Of course I would like people to read my novels, but I want them to read the novels that I want to write. I belong to a reading group and there are only two of us who are also writers. The members who are not writers can’t understand that writers are not concerned with what the readers want, that it’s a case of ‘here it is, this is what I’ve written, and I hope you’ll like it.’

How does my writing process work?

I find that I always start off with the idea of some scene, some event, and develop the story from there, and I never know where the story will go. For example, I went to a dinner party given by some friends, at which there were a man and a woman (neither known to me) who, it became clear, had been invited there to meet each other (my hostess is an inveterate matchmaker). They seemed to be getting on very well, and I wondered afterwards what happened to them. Did they or didn’t they? This scene became ‘Gifts from Unfaithful Women’. When I start writing I have no idea how a story will end, until I am beginning to think that I really ought to wrap the story up, usually when I’ve written 80,000 to 100,000 words, many of which will be discarded in the re-write. At that point I probably have several possible endings, and I turn them over in my mind until one works its way to the top. Then I do a complete re-write, and find that I have to change a substantial part of the earlier chapters. Not very efficient, but it’s how I write. I also have many false starts. I may have an opening scene that I like, and I go on writing, but somehow it doesn’t work out; I can’t find a successful continuation.

My Cambridge background

I live in Cambridge, England, where I’m a member of Cambridge Writers, a group that exists to provide support and helpful criticism for local writers. I’ve had wonderful support from other members. We meet regularly to hear work in progress, and I always come away having benefitted from comments by other members.

I’ve also had a great deal of encouragement from Jane Rusbridge, who first encouraged me to take writing seriously, and whose novels, The Devil’s Music, and Rook I greatly admire.

Thure Etzold’s website is here, where there is an account of why he wrote his novel ‘Life as it could be’, and the novel he is currently working on, Symbiosis.

Les Brookes’ website is here, where there is an account of his novel Such Fine Boys, and his book Gay Male Fiction.

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‘Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson

This book is one of the best books I’ve read recently. The concept is not new: the idea of the second chance has come in many forms in novels. The Faustian pact with the Devil is one of the earliest, and the idea of parallel universes in which a different choice, the flap of a moth’s wings, altered how events developed, has been illuminating. The fascination with the ‘what if?’ What if the Germans won the second World War (they very nearly did at one point)? What if Khrushchev hadn’t blinked when Kennedy told him to get his missiles off Cuba? What if the English army had not been exhausted by marching all those miles to Hastings after defeating Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge, and had routed the Normans? We would be speaking a completely different language. What if Dutch William had said No, when invited to take the English Crown? The English would have had a French Revolution. Perhaps, perhaps.

Ursula has many mishaps from her birth onwards. She dies, and begins again. Sometimes her life is short-lived, sometimes she achieves a lot, during a longer resurrection. The longest sequences are during the Second World War, where she plays various roles at night as support during the bombing, while carrying on a daytime job in Whitehall. These scenes have been researched well, and are convincing, although I am told that some of the detail is inaccurate. That doesn’t seem to me to affect the insight into what it must have been like.  My father was in a reserved occupation during that war, his firm made timers for bombs, but he also was a member of the Air Raid Precautions team at night. He never talked to my mother or to us, his children, about what it was like, but one day I overheard him talking to a neighbour  about the previous night, and, child though I was, I realised that what I had thought of as an adventure was not so at all. One day we got up to find the sky in the east bright red. It wasn’t the sun rising, it was Coventry burning. That was the only time I saw my father cry.

This novel recounts these events in an undramatic way that neverthless brings home the importance of the alternative path. The most elusive are the sequences where Ursula, a surprising member of Hitler’s entourage, does, or doesn’t, shoot Der Führer.

A character doesn’t have to die and come back, of course, although that makes it more dramatic. All the time we are choosing which path we follow. Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken puts it well:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps a better claim,
because it was grassy and wanted wear.”

But what is so clever about this book is what you can look for in it. It uses some quite straightforward accounts of episodes to explore how character and personality are affected by what happens. Our genes influence who we are, but experience is important as well. How similar is the Ursula of one episode to the Ursula of another? Interesting character development is the mark of a good novel, and you can look at the characters and ask how they have developed. Does Ursula’s personality change? I’m not sure. I can imagine it doing so, but is that me doing my thing as the active reader? Sylvie, Ursula’s mother, is one of the most interesting characters, and her opinions and behaviour change as the novel unfolds and she ages. This isn’t a linear novel: some scenes are throwbacks to earlier times, and there are some difficulties in deciding if this is a 1920s version of whoever. But it is worth the effort. And Ursula? How consistent are her later thoughts and actions with her earlier ones? Sometimes they are, but sometimes they aren’t: there has been a divergence. The moth’s wings have flapped, but this is how Ursula could have changed.
It’s not just Ursula, of course, all of the characters in a novel, as in a life, choose different paths, but it’s been hard enough to follow Ursula’s death and resurrection, without having to follow similar events for everyone else as well. But that would be a fascinating challenge for a writer. Thinks!

Alison Moore: The Lighthouse

When I’m deciding if I’m going to read a book I’m obsessively, nerdishly, careful; making sure it’s really the book for me. I read the reviews; I look at the excerpt that Amazon display. Third person. That’s reassuring, and the excerpt seems well written.
The Booker Prize long list blurb really does sound interesting: “The story he keeps coming back to, the person and the event affecting all other, is his mother and her abandonment of him as a boy, which left him with a void to fill, a substitute to find.” My sort of book.
And just as important for me, there’s a quote from Margaret Drabble: “Melancholy and haunting. The sense of loneliness and discomfort and rejection is compelling, the low key prose carefully handled. It’s a serious novel with a distinctive and unsettling atmosphere.”
So, what was the problem? Well, the author couldn’t keep up the quality of the voice that was in the Amazon extract (part of the opening chapter, in the rest of the book,. That, I think was the main problem. But just as unsatisfactory is that the story is pure story. All plot, no character. Futh does this, he does that and other characters do this, do that. Emotional life is almost hidden. Inferring emotional life, not displaying it too crudely, that’s fine. But a reader does need something to work on. Margaret Drabble is right; it makes for a curiously unsettling atmosphere. John Mullan, in his book ‘What matters in Jane Austen’, writes that “the obligation of a serious author is to offer us insights into the paradoxes of human behaviour”. That is what Jane Austen does: Emma blunders about her own feelings, about Harriet Smith, about almost everyone, but Jane Austen shows us what these other characters are feeling. Emma is a novel about blunders. That would have been an alternative title for Emma. Futh blunders, but we have no insights into his character. We are told the origins of his problems: desertion by his mother. But we are told, but we don’t really understand how it has formed his emotional life,
One of the Amazon reviewers compared The Lighthouse unfavourably to Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day, another travel tale of a frustrated middle-aged man, who has lied to himself at nearly every turn of his life. The reviewer wrote that in that novel we do get the sense of what that character wants, who he is, what he is travelling toward. Alison Moore never shows us Futh. You can pity him, but he doesn’t tell you his heart. And there’s the rather crass metaphor of Futh losing his way, which doesn’t really get worked out. He misses the gap in the hedge.
It’s clear, from the reviews that some readers enjoyed this very much. Every newspaper review said nice things about this book. I didn’t enjoy it, and I was left with a worrying feeling that there’s something wrong with me. I did finish it, and I was very grateful that it was so short. If I was writing a review for Amazon, how many stars would I give it? Whatever I did would be, I suspect, a judgment on myself, not on this book.

Diego Marani: New Finnish Grammar

Diego Marani New Finnish Grammar

New Finish Grammar is a novel that tells of a sailor who is found in the harbour of Trieste. He has lost his memory, and is unable to speak. All that there is to identify him is a name tag, Sampo Karjalainen, that suggests a Finnish origin. A doctor teaches him Finnish, and he makes his way to Finland.

This novel is a prose poem, like Elizabeth Smart’s novel By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept, which starts with unforgettable words:

I am standing on a corner in Monterey, waiting for the bus to come in . . . But then it is her eyes that come forward out of the vulgar disembarkers to reassure me that the bus has not disgorged disaster: her madonna eyes, soft as the newly-born, trusting as the untempted.  And, for a moment, at that gaze, I am happy to forgo my future, and postpone indefinitely the miracle hanging fire.

On page 91 of New Finnish Grammar: The Magic Tree, there are the words:  This is the magic tree – the tree of happy memories!  It’s here that I hang all the good things that have happened to me in this city.  Of course, it’s more impressive when it’s in leaf – summer evenings are the time to come, when the light is red and the air taut as a sail.  That’s when it casts its spell.

The protagonist, Sampo, asks Ilma, the woman who fails to break down the barriers that he has put up if she has memory trees wherever she goes, and the answer is, no, in this life we are entitled to only one memory tree.

While you’re reading this book, you want to know what is going to happen, but in fact what happens isn’t really very important.  What is important is how the protagonist sees himself and what is happening to him.  There are some serious shocks: discovering that Sampo Karjalainen isn’t his name, but the name of a battleship.  Another shock is that the Pastor, who has given Sampo some sort of guidance, leaves, without Sampo understanding why. Disclosing these developments doesn’t really matter; I don’t have to worry about issuing a warning. By the time the reader has got to this point he or she will know that anything can happen, or not happen.

On page 82 we meet my old friend the abessive case.  When I was a lecturer I used to go out to East Africa to do research, and in a mission hospital a doctor told me about the abessive case that some nilotic languages have, indicating the absence of something, and which apparently Finnish has as well.  There is a suffix in some of these languages which is added to a noun to indicate the absence of something.  The best one can do is to translate as food-not, or wife-not.  But it isn’t like English, where we add the suffix –less to a noun and turn it into an adjective: foodless or wifeless, or armless.  In these nilotic languages it’s a positive thing.  He has something: food-not.  He has wife-not.  I could never get my mind round this.

One of the most interesting passages, I thought, was around page 131, where we start off with grammar as an exact science, and then Marani chips away at this, and in the end we’re a long way from that view.  Grammar isn’t an exact science, of course.  In fact, does grammar exist at all?

As I was reading I wondered if Heidegger, the philosopher, was going to pop up.  He’s known for one of his aphorisms, relevant here, crudely translated as “You don’t speak the language, the language speaks you”, which means that the structure and conventions of your language constrain how you can speak or even think about things.  How amazing that someone writing in Italian, one of the more straightforward of the romance languages, has become fascinated by this weird language, Finnish.

And also, how amazing that Marani has invented a language, Europanto, without rules or grammar.  How can you have a language without rules or grammar?  How could you learn to speak it?  How could you play chess if any move was permissible, and you could capture an opponent’s piece in any way you liked?  When you live with someone, you have to negotiate the understandings about what is permissible and what isn’t.  No sex with the au pair, what you earn has to pay the mortgage, buy the food.  And if there aren’t conventions about language, how can you even negotiate this?  No means no.  Doesn’t it? So we do have to have rules to live by.  Or guidelines, perhaps. The protagonist of this novel never really learns to live with the rules.  Unlike Ilma.  Women know about rules, guidelines. They will forgive, but not everything.  Ilma never had the chance to forgive.  That’s what gives the book intellectual cohesiveness: no happy ending.

Wiki says “As of 2005, Marani no longer actively promotes Europanto.”

David Franks

Ann Patchett, State of Wonder

A pharmaceutical company is funding a research worker, Dr Swenson, who is working in the Amazonian Jungle, investigating a tribe, the Lakashi. The women of this tribe continue to produce children until they die. Not one or two of them, but all of them. Some women do continue to be fertile long past the time when most women experience the menopause, but the claim here is that all of the women in this tribe do. You can see the attraction. What is it? Diet, sexual practices? If it is a genetic feature of this tribe, that’s not so interesting. But the pharmaceutical company do not really know what is going on, and a colleague of Dr Swenson, Anders Eckman, is sent to investigate. Reports come back that he is dead, but there is little detail. Marina Singh, a colleague of Anders and former student of Dr Swenson, now a research worker herself, goes out to investigate.

When I started reading this book, I thought that the premise of this book was unbelievable. A pharmaceutical company would not fund a scientist, based on the limited information she gave them, and would certainly not continue to provide funding in the absence of reports, accounts of progress. A lecturer and research worker who had something of interest to a  pharmaceutical company would have to provide reports. They would want to see notebooks, accounts of due diligence, and, after funding, reports, and if reports were not forthcoming, the funding would stop. And not only from that company, but from all others. Word would get around.

But we set this all on one side, because by the time we’ve realised this, we are entranced by the story and by the writing.

Ann Patchett has an ability to look into her protagonist, Marina’s, life and the life of the other characters, and it seemed to me that this book is a long meditation about families, and about children. Marina has a confused relationship with Dr Fox, the CEO of the pharmaceutical company, and it’s unclear if he is manipulating and exploiting her, or she is exploiting him.

In Western, developed, societies, we talk about my wife, my husband, my children. The possessive, we talk as if they belong to us. We’ve come a long way since the Married Woman’s Property Act, but we still have this view that our immediate family is the nucleus of our lives. For some, brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunts are important, but the contrast is with much of the rest of the world, where it is the extended family that is important, and often the most extended family of all, the tribe, like the Lakashi.

The opening chapter is remarkably like Bel Canto, another of Patchett’s novels. The characters appear, we gradually learn who they are, and their personalities are revealed. The account of breaking the news of Ander’s death in the Amazon is remarkable for the way in which it reveals Marina’s character. And the letters, scattered throughout the novel, reveal more and more about this man Anders, and although he’s absent for a large part of the novel, we know him as well as any of the principal characters.

There’s the remarkable scene when Marina and Dr Swenson arrive, the Lakashi people standing on the river bank, holding up burning branches, and Marina asks if they knew Dr Swenson was coming, and is told that she doesn’t know, wonders if they waited there every evening. What a strange response. Just think about it. As the pontoon approaches, before the Lakashi hear the motor, it will be disturbing the birds and the monkeys, still out of earshot, but that will disturb other birds and monkeys, and then birds and monkeys even nearer the Lakashi that they will hear, and they will become aware that something is coming, and the Lakashi will be rushing down to the river. This doesn’t happen so much in England: there are too many people and not enough animals and birds, but it is always happening in less densely populated places. I was in northern Kenya, and the Turkana man I was with looked up. “Police come”, he said. I couldn’t hear or see anything, but about half an hour later, there they were.

Many of the characters are revealed as men and women who have thought about what they are doing. Dr Swenson is driven by her vision of reproductive help for women, but she has also thought about what the Lakashi people need. She is a charismatic woman, and Marina is disposed to follow her anywhere, but then Marina turns away, and, more and more, resists Dr Swenson’s instructions. And Dr Swenson has come to realise that old women shouldn’t be bearing children.

And when we arrive at the laboratory in the Amazon jungle, we find that it is conducted as a laboratory should be. They have notebooks, and records, it’s just that they haven’t passed the information on to the pharmaceutical company. I still am doubtful. When the company go to the FDA to get a drug approved, they would need those notebooks. The notebooks would have to be certified, authenticated as a true record of investigations that had been carried out at a particular time. There would need to be proof that Dr Swenson possessed the intellectual property rights in whatever it was. And then, the revelation that it’s protection against falciparum malaria. At this point, I thought it didn’t make much sense to be worrying about whether the story was believable. It wasn’t. A cure for infertility is stretching it a bit, but for the same material, whatever it was, to protect against malaria as well! But that isn’t what the book is about.

One of the central and most important scenes in the novel, although a very short scene, occurs halfway through, when two of the research workers, Nancy and Alan Saturn are arguing. There has been a great deal about Dr Swenson and Dr Rapp sticking to their priorities, not being distracted by the needs of their followers, and Dr Swenson has warned Marina that, if she goes out into the Amazon, she is on her own, will have to find her own way back. Nancy has been criticising Dr Rapp for abandoning her husband when he was ill, and he defending his teacher. It follows the usual course of a marital disagreement, and Marina wants to separate herself from this: it’s too close to her own experience for comfort. The familiar husband-wife interchange goes on, and ends with Marina’s devastating conclusion: in this life we love who we love. That sums up every relationship novel that has ever been written.

The rest of the novel is a roller-coaster. You see that anything can happen, and it does. Coincidence piles upon accident. I kept expecting that Patchett would introduce Kant’s categorical imperative, that we must always treat  a man or woman, including ourselves, as an end, and not merely as a means. She didn’t, but the thought is there, and there’s also the dilemma for those who would follow this maxim: what do you do if one person’s end conflicts with another’s? Marina gives Easter, a child from a tribe related to the Lakashi, away to recover Anders, her other child. Easter has become a means to another man’s end. The symbolism is heavy. And then she gives Anders away, back to his wife. What has Marina got out of this? Not much, but at least she has freed herself from her father. There are loose ends. Easter will find his way back to Dr Swenson, we know that. Dr Swenson will die, fairly soon. You aren’t sure if Marina will go to Dr Fox, or what she will do. It doesn’t matter. It’s up to you to exercise your imagination. Some novels tie up the loose ends, you are told how things work out. Patchett leaves the loose ends for us to make what we will of them.

The past beneath our feet

Ammonite from the Cambridge Grand Arcade

Ammonite from the Cambridge Grand Arcade

One of the shopping malls, The Grand Arcade, in the centre of Cambridge, England, is paved in a beautifully rich creamy coloured stone, polished to perfection. And embedded in the stone and visible on the polished surface are fossils of animals and plants that lived millions of years ago. It’s probable that few of those walking through the Arcade notice these reminders of the past: they are intent, of course, on their shopping, looking at the shops, looking to see where they can get a cup of coffee.  The management of the Arcade keep it beautifully clean: the stones aren’t disfigured by the detritus of chewing gum that blight so many pavements these days, so that the fossils can’t be mistaken for dirt.

It’s not easy to identify the fossils: all you can see is a one-dimensional slice through the fossil. But you can tell that some of of them are fishes, and there are a substantial number of ammonites, see in cross-section. Ammonites were free-swimming cephalopods, relatives of modern-day squids, that survived in the oceans for over 200 million years, only  to be blasted into extinction after a massive body from outer space, about 10km in diameter, crashed into earth near what is now known as the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. This was a turning point in earth’s history, and we are reminded of these creatures as we walk through the Grand Arcade.

This isn’t the only place you can see stone with embedded fossils from earth’s remote past.  Many of the corporate headquarters of global businesses in the city of London are enhanced by facades of such polished stone, and some of them also contain such fossils, often much larger and more beautiful than those in the Grand Arcade. And only a few minutes walk from the Grand Arcade, in the Museums of Zoology and the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, you can see even more magnificent fossils, named and labelled, appropriately for these scientific departments of a university.

Another interesting place to see fossils embedded in a building is The University Centre in Cambridge, faced with Portland Roach stone, which is particularly rich in fossils. Portland stone was used throughout England for facing building, since it is particularly hard-wearing.  In fact, as you look around you will find these reminders of the past everywhere.

Madeline Miller The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles
This is my review from Good Reads
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I don’t really know what to say about this book. It would have been easier to read if if I had never read the Iliad. And the Iliad, in a good translation, is a wonderful poem, the language tailored to the story.

But we know the myths, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on our background and what we have read.

The Iliad has two main themes. One is the damage that war does to families and friends, even to men fighting on the same side, as Achilles and Agamemnon were, but become hostile to each other, and the failure of leadership that this hostility produces. The other is the role of women, how they influence how society functions, and the women in the Iliad, Helen, Briseis, Andromache and Thetis, demonstrate different aspects of this. Thetis is a goddess, but she is the most mortal-like of the gods. It seems to me that this second theme has been diminished, is almost absent, in The Song of Achilles, to make room for the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus that Miller wants to portray.

Reviews in the serious newspapers, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, have been almost uniformly flattering. The Telegraph was a little less enthusiastic. But only the New York Times was critical in the way that I’m critical. I didn’t read these reviews until after I had read the book and decided what I thought, and as I worked through the English newspapers I became increasingly despondent, thinking that there was something wrong with me, and I was overjoyed when I came across the NYT review and found that someone shared my disquiet.

The NYT reviewer writes that the real Achilles heel of this book is tone – one made disastrously worse by the author’s decision to metamorphose an ancient story of heroes into a modern tale of hormones. He also says the problem reaches crisis proportions in the handling of the love affair. He thinks the writing about this is swoony soft-porn, and that even more than the Dawson’s Creek psychologizing, the heavy breathing and soft-focus skin shots make it hard to take the characters seriously.

I think the Song of Achilles is a good candidate for the Bad Sex Prize. I enjoy good writing about sexual behaviour in novels, but this book was awful.

But I suppose one of the main reasons I didn’t like this book is that it isn’t poetic, in the way that Homer’s Iliad is.

I just want to show two very short excerpts from the Iliad. In the first Agamemnon, whose claim to Briseis is based on power says (1.184)

I shall come to your hut and take away Briseus’
lovely-cheeked daughter, your prize, so that you may know well
how much more powerful I am than you.

In the second Achilles says, at Book 9 line 338: (Atreus’ son is Agamemnon.)

Why did Atreus’ son assemble an army
and bring it here? Was it not for lovely-haired Helen’s sake?
Are then Atreus’ sons the only ones among mortal men
who love their wives? Surely every good man of sound mind
loves his own and cherishes her, just as I for my part
loved mine from my heart, although she was won by my spear.

He’s talking about Briseis, and his claim is based on affection, not power.

And, of course there are the wonderful lines that open the Iliad:

Sing, Goddess, the anger of Achilles, Peleus’ son
the accursed anger which brought the Achaeans countless
agonies and hurled many mighty shades of heroes into Hades.

Millers book starts:

My father was a king and son of kings. He was a short man, as most of us were, and built like a bull, all shoulders.

Perhaps it’s just not my book. I prefer the Iliad. Am I glad I read the Song of Achilles? Not really.

I ought not to give it a bad mark, but I didn’t really like it.

View all my reviews