Elizabeth Cook was born in Gibraltar in 1956 and educated in England. She lives in east London. Elizabeth Cook is a writer of poetry and short stories, and has also written and presented programmes for radio and television. She is well known for her studies in Renaissance literature, and is the editor of the works of John Keats.
With this brilliantly conceived retelling of the plight of one of Homer's heroes, British writer Cook demonstrates the same skill that has made her poetry and examinations of Renaissance literature so wonderfully memorable. Cleaving closely to the Odyssey but embellishing her tale with sharply imagined creative flourishes, Cook navigates the rise and fall of the powerful Greek warrior Achilles, tragic hero of the Trojan War. Voluptuously chronicling the warrior's youth, Cook tells how he is dipped in the immortalizing waters of the river Styx (except for the legendary heel) and spends his youth cloaked as a girl. As he rises to power, Achilles encounters a bevy of gods and mystical figures, each imparting ruminations on fate, mortality and the tragic eventualities of love and war. Death the slaying of Troy's champion soldier, Hector; the 12 gruesome days spent parading his corpse via chariot; and Achilles' own demise is the work's central theme, but Cook also brilliantly narrates a series of passionate encounters, describing, for example, the exquisitely athletic fusion of King Peleus and Achilles' sea-nymph mother, Thetis. Cook's text is more lush prose poem than traditional narrative, its concentrated, intense verbiage exhibiting agony and beauty simultaneously. The heady brew is made even richer by Cook's brave incorporation of an episode from the life of poet John Keats in the surprising final chapter, which suggests a curious affinity between the prophetic writer and the slain hero. At 128 pages, Cook's tale is tightly woven, and this brevity makes for an extreme reading experience. The genre of retellings of classical epics will surely be reinvigorated by this slim, exceptional interpretation of the heroic fable of Achilles. (Feb.) Forecast: Rave reviews in Britain heralded the appearance of this potent work, and curiosity on these shores should be whetted by the book's haunting jacket, which features a massive ancient wooden gate in stark black and white. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
'Elizabeth Cook's Achilles is a remarkable renewal of the tales of the ancient hero... A prose poem with the sensuous commitment of Christopher Logue, it also has something of the intellectuality, and indeed the layered allusiveness, of Thomas Mann'. Michael Silk, Times Literary Supplement 'Cook retells Achilles's story, making the reader feel that it exists in a present tense. She is not interested in polite distance: she gets close to the gods, makes them seem real - a feat in itself. Her writing is charged: every moment matters, each word counts, as if time were running out' The Observer