Synopsis: Set during the Trojan War, the great warrior Achilles has a war prize, Briseis, who is stolen by Agamemnon. Because of this slight, Achilles refuses to fight, therefore dooming the Greek side. Hector, fighting on the side of the Trojans, leads various raids into the Greek camp, bringing the battle closer and closer to Achilles. Will Achilles relent and rejoin the battle? Or will his stubbornness doom his comrades?
Review: Well, I finished it! And I did like it, but I did have difficulty in parts.
I decided to read Homer’s The Iliad because earlier this summer I read Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, which I really loved. The Song of Achilles tells the story of Achilles and Patroclus, and goes over the events of The Iliad, and gives a broader background and meaning to the events of The Iliad.
I must say that I enjoyed The Song of Achilles far more than I did The Iliad. If I hadn’t read The Song of Achilles, I would’ve been totally confused as to the characters and what was going on.
The Iliad just jumps right into the action without any introduction as to characters and setting. There was an introduction in my version of the book that I did not read, and I wonder what my thoughts would be if I had read that intro first.
Besides the human characters, which I’ll get to in a minute, we have the gods, who are just as much a part of the story as the humans. Zeus, Hera, Aprodite, Athena, and Apollo all make appearances and try to sway human actions. The gods and their antics didn’t interest me in the slightest. I found myself scanning through their sections and wanting to put the book down when they appeared.
Now the human characters I did like, namely Patroclus and Hector. Hector is such a larger than life character, full of fire and strength. I’m drawn to him, much more than I’m drawn to Achilles, another larger than life character. I also really enjoyed the character of Andromache, Hector’s wife. She is loyal and kind, and I could feel her fear and tension while Hector fights.
Patroclus is just a great guy, a nice guy, and one that everyone loves. His story is full of sadness and friendship.
Besides the characters, the main aspect of The Iliad is warfare. This is one of the bloodiest, goriest books I’ve ever read. And it is unrelenting. It isn’t just one section that is graphic, it’s the entire book. If you can’t handle reading graphic descriptions of bodily injury, then you should stay away from this book. Even though I knew what the subject matter was going in, I was not expecting it to be as graphic as it was! So that kind of shocked me a bit. Not because I don’t read graphic books, I do read them. I was just not expecting it here.
So, even though The Iliad was difficult to read in places, due to my lack of interest in the gods and the bloody bits, I’m glad I read it. It’s a classic for a reason, and parts had me spellbound. I’d think twice before reading it in its entirety again, but I would definitely read certain sections by themselves again no problem.
Bottom Line: Classic literature worth reading if you can handle blood and guts. If unwilling to invest in the time to read this, try The Song of Achilles for an easier read.
Read my review of The Song of Achilles here
Have you read The Iliad? Is it a book you will re-read or is once enough? Which of its long line of characters are your favorites? Have I convinced you to give this classic a try, or are you put off by the gore factor?