How Madeline Miller is Redefining Historical Fiction

The classics are classic for a reason, but Madeline Miller knows that there are still many new stories to be told.

Book Culture Historical Fiction Opinions

If you’re like me, you might have grown tired of reading historical fiction books from the same periods in history– the World War II era and the Regency era. While there are so many great fiction books set in these time periods, it would be nice to have more books dedicated to other fascinating parts of history too!

Madeline Miller is one author who you can count on to do just that. If you are a part of the book community, you most definitely have heard of The Song of Achilles. Madeline Miller is the mastermind behind this soon to be classic. 




But what makes Miller’s stories so special? Well, the truth is that she is doing something that not many people are doing, which is redefining historical fiction as we know it. 



Writing About Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece is not exactly the easiest period to write about. There are so many gods, hard to pronounce names, detailed myths, etc; it can be a lot to take in for the average reader. 

Some of the greatest epic poems like The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, etc. come from this period. While most students read these books either in high school, college, or on their own time, many find them difficult to keep up with due to their prose and extensive detail. However, with a deep background knowledge about Ancient Greece, these books completely come to life. 

Madeline Miller wrote her books with the intent of giving these classics a new life, one that is more digestible to the average reader. 


A Background in Classics

Miller grew up in New York City before going off to Brown University to study classics. At Brown, she earned a BA and an MA in the subject. Throughout her life, she studied Greek myths, Latin, Greek, and ancient history, which all acted as a foundation for her two incredibly popular books, The Song of Achilles and Circe. Miller also lived in Greece and Turkey for some time, which she considers to be an important part of doing her research for the stories she’s written. 




In other words, it is obvious that Miller is incredibly knowledgeable, passionate, and intentional with how she is writing her books. She admits that 10 years of research went into the writing of The Song of Achilles.

Readers love that Miller has used her extensive knowledge to write thoughtful and intriguing stories about a historical period that is often not written about in fiction today from a perspective that is not often written about as well. 


Giving us a new Perspective

We all know that history has not been kind to the women and the LGBTQIA+ community. Sadly, this naturally results in their history not being documented to the proper extent. Another natural result of their mistreatment has been that even when we do have information about their history, it gets interpreted through the lens of another group. 




Madeline Miller is doing what she can to alter that narrative. Miller got the idea to write the Song of Achilles, a rewrite of The Iliad through the lens of a gay romantic relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, from Plato. However, she has been the one to rewrite their story from their lens, giving us an endearing yet realistic story about men loving men in Ancient Greece. 




Circe is another book that rewrites a commonly told story. The story is about Circe, an Ancient Greek sorceress who is known for turning her enemies into beasts, most famously turning Odysseus’ men into pigs when they washed up on her island. However, no one has ever considered Circe’s side enough to write a story from her point of view. 


THe Future

Miller’s novels not only encourage readers to think about the classic books in a different way, but she also opens the door for more powerful stories from Ancient Greece to be revisited. 

Madeline Miller is taking a period of history that is not often seen in fiction, and making the stories more modern and digestible for historical fiction lovers. She’s passionate and knowledgeable about classics and you can tell in every word that she writes. Ancient Greece is not solely a setting for her stories, it acts as its own entity, fully developed and poignant.

Miller reminds us how Ancient Greece is still relevant in today’s society. The classics are classic for a reason, but Miller knows that there are still many new stories to be told.

Featured Image Via the times