Reading · Writing

Historical Fiction From the Observer

I read a lot of historical fiction and something I’ve noticed lately is a lot of stories of famous people being written about from the perspective of someone close to them, an observer of their story. This keeps us out of the famous person’s head and shows us how they appear through the eyes of someone else. I’ve seen this device done very well, but I’ve also seen it done in ways that made the observer come off as too lackluster and boring. In the worst case, I went into a book expecting a prominent figure to play a central role only for them to be in less than half the book, for example as in The Wardrobe Mistress. The book was called a novel about Marie Antoinette, but she was more of a side character as the book followed the story of one of her undertirewomen. While reading my latest historical pick, I finally figured out what makes writing from an observer’s point of view work for my personal tastes and what doesn’t.

Let’s start with an example of a story of a famous person’s life playing out through an observer’s eyes that worked. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller did a wonderful job of showing us Achilles’s story through the eyes of his lover Patroclus. One of the reasons I enjoyed seeing the story from Patroclus’s point of view was because it shrouded bits of Achilles in mystery and gave us a view outside of Achilles’s own thoughts on himself, which is my experience seems to often be the reason why an observer’s point of view is used in the first place. However Patroclus played a large role in the story. Yes he observed Achilles’s rise to fame and his demise, but he didn’t just observe, he took part in that story and helped shape it. Ultimately that’s what sold me on Patroclus’s POV. I didn’t just get an outside perspective of Achilles, Patroclus’s character was fascinating enough in his own right for me to enjoy getting his story as well. Continue reading “Historical Fiction From the Observer”

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Reading · Reviews

Book Review: The Song of Achilles

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved Greek mythology. I went through a period in time where I couldn’t get enough reading about mythology and devoured every book about it I could get my hands on. I found The Song of Achilles to be a fantastic read and it gets 4.5 stars from me. If you love mythology you should really give this book a read. It is the book on Achilles I wanted and I didn’t even know it until I read.

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First of all something I appreciated about this book and want to mention first thing was that the author kept in Achilles’s love for Patroclus instead of writing out their love affair. I believe the movie about Troy with Brad Pitt left it out, but The Song of Achilles didn’t dance around the LGBTQ aspects of his story. In fact the love story between Achilles and Patroclus was one of my favorite bits of this. The ending wouldn’t have been the same without it and their love made the ending powerful. Continue reading “Book Review: The Song of Achilles”