Jack Cullen

Hot gay novel scoops Orange Prize for Fiction

Last night American author Madeline Miller won the £30,000 Orange Prize for Fiction with her stunning debut novel The Song of Achilles.

It's a lively re-telling of the Greek hero’s youth told from the point of view of his boyfriend - the exiled Prince Patroclus.
The book follows Achilles and his best friend from longing nights of their palace pubescence, through years of physical training in the wilderness with a hot centaur, and then all the way into the Trojan War which engulfs their entire twenties and ultimately their lives. Miller wrote the book partially to counteract heterosexual misconceptions that films like Troy affirm and to disencourage homophobia which she has seen in the classroom as a Classics teacher in an American high school.
While Miller herself is not gay, and her book can be enjoyed by all, I think we can feel proud as a gay community to have such a welcome addition to gay fiction’s vast and varied canon. It is rare for a novel that centres around a gay storyline to receive such wide recognition and it is not every day that we receive a new work of fiction that is both gay-orientated and also very well written (unless you’re a fan of the throbbing similes in Come To Daddy 8) – so thanks Madeline.
The unquestionable levels of research that Miller has undergone in order to write her story have left conservative academics in a weak position in challenging her claim that Achilles was homosexual. While Homer never explicitly stated in the Iliad that Achilles was gay (obviously he couldn’t do that) he did incredibly little to rule out ambiguity and often flirted with suggestive verb endings. We know for a fact that Alexander The Great was inspired by the love story of Achilles and Patroclus when considering his own homosexuality.
Vivid, funny and heart-wrenching The Song of Achilles’ success lies in the strength of its writing. As well as the hot romance between the dazzling blond demigod Achilles and thoughtful, dark-featured Patroclus there are tonnes of other exciting characters. Achilles’ mother the sea nymph Thetis is particularly scary with her burning black eyes, while Deidameia (the bitchy ski-slope nosed teenage princess who rules over Achilles while he dons a floaty dress and disguises himself as one of her dancing girls) is richly bitchy. Then there is Chiron, the magnificent centaur who trains Achilles and Patroclus as teenagers and who is basically a hot Vauxhall-type.

Buy The Song of Achilles and make it your first summer read for 2012. We just know you’re going to enjoy it.

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