Madeline Miller: ‘A woman’s life gets to be just as epic as a man’s’

We are thrilled to welcome Women’s Prize royalty Madeline Miller to the podcast this week. Madeline won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2012 with The Song of Achilles, a powerful and poignant retelling of the Trojan War that continues to capture the hearts of readers the world over. She followed this up with the no.1 international bestseller Circe, recasting the formerly sidelined goddess as the heroine of her own epic. 

A voracious reader herself, Madeline shares the five books she turns to for escape and inspiration, all while offering plenty of fascinating insights into her own writing journey – from the intricacies of adaptation to exploring the psychology of all-powerful gods aka ‘sociopathic narcissists’.  Keep reading to discover Madeline’s Bookshelfie picks, and listen to the conversation in full here.

The Joy Luck Club

A moving and poignant tale of immigrant Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants…

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‘I loved the psychological realism … the relationships between the mothers and daughters were so beautifully drawn, so razor sharp … [Tan] isn’t afraid to show us the complexity of their difficulty, their trauma, but also this warmth and this real understanding and empathy for their life.’

Sense and Sensibility (screenplay)

Sense and Sensibility is a 1995 period drama film directed by Ang Lee and based on Jane Austen’s 1811 novel of the same name. Emma Thompson wrote the…

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‘The way [Thompson] wrote the scenes, the humour she brought in, the psychology, the acuity, the incredibly wonderful encapsulating of whole long scenes in just a few lines of back and forth, was so exciting to me … It felt like a masterclass in adaptation.’


Kitchen juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, bereavement, kitchens, love and tragedy in contemporary Japan. It is a startlingly original first…

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‘When I started reading it, it was that wonderful feeling when you think “oh my gosh, I’m gonna love this book” … It’s a story about found family – the idea that even if we don’t have family, there are families out there in the world where we can really be ourselves. And I think that part of the story really spoke to me.’


Heartburn, the late Nora Ephron’s only novel, takes inspiration from the breakdown of her own marriage to deliver a witty,…

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‘You can’t just have unrelenting misery. That doesn’t really reflect human experience. Even in incredibly hard times, there’s always the wryness, the absurdity, the fun. So I love the richness of the tapestry that [Ephron] weaves in, and I try to bring that into my own work, even though I’m not the queen of zingers like Nora.’

The House of the Spirits

As a girl, Clara del Valle can read fortunes, make objects move as if they had lives of their own,…

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‘This book was an absolute revelation to me when I was in high school … I was blown away by the scope of it – the generations, the family drama, the family relationships, the love, the epic nature of people’s experiences was really gripping. I felt immersed in these families and in these people’s lives.’

Explore the bookshelves of more of your favourite authors by delving into the back catalogue of the Women’s Prize podcast – with episodes featuring Maggie O’Farrell, Malorie Blackman and Bernardine Evaristo – and don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe!

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.