Orange Prize winner

All posts in the Orange Prize winner category

The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

Published February 1, 2013 by bibliobeth

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Whats it all about?:

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

What did I think?:

This book was chosen by my online book club as January’s read but I had been meaning to read it for a while after hearing all the hype, and of course, its Orange prize win. All I can say is…. wow. This is a wonderful re-telling of the story of Achilles through the eyes of his companion (ahem..lover) Patroclus. I don’t think you have to have studied Greek mythology to read the novel but for me it was a definite bonus.

The love story between Achilles and Patroclus was told beautifully and I found it very touching. Although we should know how it is going to end, I found myself tormented and foolishly hoped for a turn around! The prose of the author is so descriptive and poetic, I even found myself reading a bit slower just to prolong my enjoyment. I am eagerly anticipating another Madeline Miller novel – maybe she could tackle Theseus and the Minotaur?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Published January 30, 2013 by bibliobeth

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Whats it all about?:

A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.

With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.

What did I think?:

This is an epic, astonishing novel and I have to say it kept me gripped from beginning to end. I did not know much if anything about the politics between the Biafra-Nigerian war in the late sixties, and I really enjoy a book where I can learn something. The story is told through the eyes of a number of different characters: Ugwu (probably my favourite), an impressionable, faithful and steadfast houseboy, Olanna, a beautiful and strong young woman, and Richard – an Englishman and aspiring writer.

I loved how the story unfolded through the duration of the troubles, which ended up dividing not only a country, but the bonds between our characters when they are tested in different ways. Some of the descriptions of the carnage and massacres are among the bloodiest and the most shocking I have come across, and for that reason will stay with me for a little while. There is a particularly poignant line that sums up the novel perfectly:

“There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.”

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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