Miller, Madeline. (2012) The Song of Achilles. Ecco-Harper Collins, New York.
Miller teaches and tutors latin and greek to high school students -- and presuably her students are like M, the son of our dear friends, P and K -- who fell in love with both latin and greek in high school. Before that he was in love with Spanish. At Yale now, he's in love with German.
Illustrative of her spare yet evocative style, by which the author brings the world of the gods into the every day, is this, from the chapter in which the young Achilles and Patroclus first are met by their tutor, the famous, immortal centaur, Chiron. He orders the boys to get on his back, to carry them on steep, long climb to his mountain cave:
Achilles twisted back to look me, grinning.
We climbed higher still, and the centaur swished his great black tail, swatting flies for all of us.
I enjoyed and admired this novel very much.
Another historical novel I'm currently enjoying is
Amirrezvani, Anita. (2012) Equal of the Sun. Scribner, New York.
A contemporary of Elizabeth I, in the mid-16th century the Ottoman princess Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi, becomes Persia-Iran's power broker upon the death of the Shah, her father, whose favorite she was. She is the one who knows all, though only 14 years old. She strategizes and administrates among the factions to choose the half brother she wishes to take the throne. This brother is the best of them (though it seems none of them approach the virtue she and her dad Shah father view as the proper way to govern), but Isma'il is the one who will work with her. The Princess is an historical figure. This novel is narrated by her intelligence officer, the eunuch, Agha Javhar. She lived only 30 years; the half brother Isma’il Shah was assassinated by a faction – or, it was speculated, by Princess Pari herself; Princess Pari was assassinated by another half-brother and his wife a few months later.
The author, an adjunct prof at the California College of the Arts - San Francisco, includes a splendid reading list of books and articles that cover women, the period and the region. Two of the most enlightening are:
Zarinebaf-Shahr, Fariba. "Economic Activities of Safavid Women in the Shrine City of Ardabil." Iranian Studies 31, no.2 (Spring 1998)
Matthee, Rudi. "Prostitutes, Courtesans, and Dancing Girls: Women Entertainers in Safavid Iran." Iran and Beyond: Essays in Middle Eastern History in Honor of Nikki R. Keddie. Edited by Rudi Matthee and Beth Varon. Casta Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2000.
For writers such as these, history isn't a matter of plunder and appropriation, as is so much that passes these days as historical fiction or historical romance or historical fantasy, mystery and science fiction. Both of these novelists respect and understand their subjects and the research materials -- and contribute to both. Neither of these novelists would sneer that reading and writing history, as non-fiction or as fiction, is "splashing around in the bathtub of history."