Madeline Miller

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Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller - Kolkata 2013-02-03 4377 Cropped.JPG
Born (1978-07-24) July 24, 1978 (age 41)[1]
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
EducationBrown University (BA, MA)
University of Chicago
Yale University
Notable worksThe Song of Achilles
Notable awardsOrange Prize for Fiction (2012)
Official website

Madeline Miller (born July 24, 1978) is an American novelist, author of The Song of Achilles (2011) and Circe (2018). Miller spent ten years writing Song of Achilles while she worked as a Latin and Greek teacher. The novel tells the story of the love between the mythological figures Achilles and Patroclus; it won the Orange Prize for Fiction, making Miller the fourth debut novelist to win the prize.

Early life[edit]

Miller was born on July 24, 1978, in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia.[2][3] After graduating from Brown University with a bachelor's and master's in Classics (2000 and 2001, respectively), Miller then went on to teach Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students.[2][3][4] She also studied for a year at the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought toward a PhD and from 2009 to 2010 at the Yale School of Drama for an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism.[5] As of May 2012 Miller lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts teaching and writing.[3][4]

Miller told a reporter from The Guardian that she has been inspired by a lot of books, poetry and authors, including David Mitchell, Lorrie Moore, Anne Carson and Virgil.[6]

The Song of Achilles[edit]

The Song of Achilles, Miller's debut novel, was released in September 2011.[3][7] The book took her ten years to write.[2][3] After discarding a completed manuscript five years into her writing, she started again from scratch,[2] struggling to perfect the voice of her narrator.[2] The Song of Achilles, set in Greece, tells the story of a love affair between Achilles and Patroclus.[4] Miller was inspired by the account of the two men from Homer's Iliad and said she wanted to explore who Patroclus was and what he meant to Achilles.[4] On her inspiration for the novel, Miller explained:

I stole it from Plato! The idea that Patroclus and Achilles were lovers is quite old. Many Greco-Roman authors read their relationship as a romantic one—it was a common and accepted interpretation in the ancient world. We even have a fragment from a lost tragedy of Aeschylus, where Achilles speaks of his and Patroclus' 'frequent kisses.' There is a lot of support for their relationship in the text of the Iliad itself, though Homer never makes it explicit. For me, the most compelling piece of evidence, aside from the depth of Achilles' grief, is how he grieves: Achilles refuses to burn Patroclus' body, insisting instead on keeping the corpse in his tent, where he constantly weeps and embraces it—despite the horrified reactions of those around him. That sense of physical devastation spoke deeply to me of a true and total intimacy between the two men.[8]

Miller had become transfixed by Achilles after her mother read the Iliad to her when she was younger. She also found Patroclus "tantalizing" because he is a minor character that later had a "big impact" on the outcome of the Trojan War.[2] The writer used classical texts by Ovid, Virgil, Sophocles, Apollodorus, Euripides and Aeschylus to help with the plot, as well as accounts of Achilles' childhood friendship with Patroclus and his martial training.[2][9] Miller also uses quotes from Homer in the text.[2]

The Song of Achilles was the winner of the 17th annual Orange Prize for Fiction.[8] Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it was a surprise win, with Miller being "the dark horse in this year's race".[8] Joanna Trollope, chair of the judges, commented "This is a more than worthy winner – original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her."[8] The book was also shortlisted for the 2013 Chautauqua Prize.[10]


Circe, Miller's second novel, was released on April 18, 2018.[11] The book is told from the perspective of Circe, a character in the Odyssey. The summary of the novel is as follows:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power--the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.[citation needed]

Circe was ranked the second-greatest book of the 2010s in Paste.[12] An 8-part miniseries adaptation of the book has been greenlit for HBO Max.[13]


  • The Song of Achilles. London: Bloomsbury, 2011. ISBN 9781408816035, OCLC 770085076
  • Circe: A Novel. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2018. ISBN 9780316556347, OCLC 1029608347[14][15][16]


  1. ^ Leonard, Sue (September 24, 2011). "Beginner's Pluck". Irish Examiner. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Alter, Alexandra (February 24, 2012). "Rewriting the Story of Achilles". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e Brown, Mark (May 30, 2012). "Orange prize for fiction 2012 goes to Madeline Miller". The Guardian. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Marsden, Sam (May 30, 2012). "Orange Prize for Fiction goes to Madeline Miller's story of a love affair overshadowed by the Trojan War". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  5. ^ "About Madeline". Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  6. ^ "Paperback Q&A: Madeline Miller on The Song of Achilles". The Guardian. May 1, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  7. ^ Ana (December 21, 2011). "Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller". The Book Smugglers. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Kellogg, Carolyn (May 30, 2012). "First-time author Madeline Miller wins last-ever Orange Prize". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  9. ^ Ciabattari, Jane (March 21, 2012). "Madeline Miller Discusses 'The Song of Achilles'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
  10. ^ Ron Charles (May 15, 2013). "Timothy Egan wins Chautauqua Prize for "Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher"". Washington Post. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  11. ^ "News - Madeline Miller". Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  12. ^ "The 40 Best Novels of the 2010s". October 14, 2019. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  13. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (July 30, 2019). "'Circe' Fantasy Drama From Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver Based On Novel Gets HBO Max Series Order". Deadline Hollywood.
  14. ^ Charles, Ron (April 9, 2018). "Review | The original nasty woman is a goddess for our times". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  15. ^ Alter, Alexandra (April 6, 2018). "Circe, a Vilified Witch From Classical Mythology, Gets Her Own Epic". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  16. ^ Preston, Alex (April 8, 2018). "Circe by Madeline Miller review – Greek classic thrums with contemporary relevance". The Guardian. Retrieved April 15, 2018.

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