A Novel

Elizabeth Cook


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This powerful, passionate, and beautifully crafted retelling of the epic tale of Achilles re-creates Homer's fated hero in a new and striking reality. Born of the Sea nymph Thetis by the mortal King Peleus, and hidden as a girl until Odysseus discovers him, Achilles becomes the Greeks' greatest warrior at Troy. Into his story comes a cast of fascinating characters—among them, Hector, Helen, Penthiseleia the Amazon Queen, and the centaur Chiron; and finally John Keats, whose writings form the basis of a meditation on the nature of identity and shared experience.

An unforgettable and deeply moving work of fiction, Achilles is also an affirmation of the story's enduring power to reach across centuries and cultures to the core of our imagination.

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Praise for Achilles

"Everything in this novel, except the number of pages, is larger than life, and in reading it we are returned to our own lives with a sense of larger possibility. This bright, fierce book reminds us that art can be consoling and that, however grievous, however inevitable our losses, we do not bear them alone."
—Margot Livesey, The Boston Globe

"Elizabeth Cook has met the challenge of retelling the Achilles story with thrilling audacity and has given us a novel of great beauty and originality. A heroics book, radiant with intelligence and passion."
—Sigrid Nunez, author of For Rouenna

"[A] poetic masterpiece . . . unfailingly modern: swift, cinematic, sexually
explicit, and ravishingly beautiful."
The Atlantic Monthly

"Cook imbues the legend of Achilles with startling urgency and beauty. Erudite,
passionate and not the least bit pretentious . . . Cook has impressively transformed the legend of Achilles into something entirely her own, a thoroughly modern study of masculinity, mortality and honor."
The San Francisco Chronicle

"Ms. Cook's Achilles shimmers between poetry and prose, myth and memory, an age-old story and a startlingly modern imagination. It is uncanny in the best sense of the word."
—Emily Barton, author of The Testament of Ives Gundron

"Brilliantly conceived."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This welcome retelling of Achilles' career—savage yet sensitive, headstrong yet doomed—impels him to death, but Elizabeth Cook's vivid narrative, together with John Keats waiting in the wings, restores the Homeric hero to his rightful, impassioned life."
—Robert Fagles, translator of Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey

"Inspired . . . Cook points up the primal quality of Achilles' story, so that we see
its tragedy . . . as utterly universal."
Booklist (starred review)

"Masterful . . . A short, intense account of a short, intense life, closer to being a poem than a novel: if not verse, then at least prose with blood pressure."
London Review of Books

"A piece of writing that somehow belongs both to the ancient world and to ours. By pure force of feeling and imagination, and without any overt modernisation, it transforms this ancient story into something that goes straight to the heart of our current questions."
—Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

"[A] remarkable little book . . . It is slender yet epic in its scope. Its roots are well-known, but its branches are new. I have never read anything like it."
—Kate Kellaway, The Observer

"Extraordinary, and extraordinarily successful . . . What the late Angela Carter did for the folk-tale and fairy-story, Cook is here doing for the classical epic . . . It is beautiful, passionate."
—Sara Maitland, The Spectator

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Elizabeth Cook

Elizabeth Cook has published short fiction and poetry as well as scholarly works on Renaissance literature, and has also written and presented for television and the theatre. Formerly a university lecturer, she has edited the works of John Keats. She lives in London.

Elizabeth Cook


Buy the Book

Available Formats and Book Details

A Novel
Elizabeth Cook

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
February 2003
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466840379
ISBN10: 1466840374
128 pages

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
February 2003
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312311100
ISBN10: 0312311109
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 128 pages

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