A dead man lies in the sand. Eyes still, covered in dirt and bound by rope, the body remains intact, serene almost, and shows little signs of the violence of the past few days. Achilles prepares to drag the corpse from his speeding chariot as he has each morning since Hector's death. Hector's grief-stricken and horrified family weep at the dishonor of Achilles' actions. Hector's father, King Priam, makes a decision: he will get his son's body back at all costs.
For those who have read Homer's Iliad this may sound awfully familiar. David Malouf's novel Ransom revisits and expands upon the encounter between King Priam and Achilles in Homer's epic. The result is a lyrical, artfully crafted tale of the human struggle to deal with loss. Malouf begins in medias res as Achilles learns his beloved friend has been killed by Hector. Sing, O goddess, of the anger of Achilles. Achilles' grief, expressed as unabated rage, leads to his murdering Hector, desecrating his corpse and denying the Trojan hero proper burial rights. Unable to bear the dishonor Achilles brings to his son, King Priam does the unthinkable by disguising himself as a beggar and sneaking into the enemy encampment with a ransom for his son's body. The meeting of Achilles and Priam is moving and revelatory. Their shared experience of loss cuts through circumstances of war and titles. They meet not as Trojan king and Greek warrior but as mourning father and desolate lover. The most exciting part of Ransom is that it makes you forget you're not reading material straight out of the Iliad. Characters are expanded, motivations explored, and it maintains the feel and tone of the original epic. This is a must read for all Iliad lovers.
Submitted by Kristina @ MPL Central