American Madeline Miller, a classics teacher turned novelist, took home the prestigious Orange Prize for fiction on Wednesday for her debut book, The Song of Achilles.

The book retells the story of Patroclus and the legendary warrior Achilles from their first meeting as children to their deaths at the siege of Troy.   

Joanna Trollope, who chaired the judging panel, described Miller's retelling of the ancient Greek myth as "inventive, passionate, uplifting and different" at the awards ceremony in London's Royal Festival Hall.   

Miller — who spent 10 years writing the book while working as a Greek and Latin teacher —said she was "overwhelmed" and "humble" by the £30,000 (nearly $48,000 Cdn) prize.   

Victoria-based Esi Edugyan was on the short list for Half-Blood Blues, which won Canada's richest literary award, the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, in November.   

Two other Americans had joined Miller on the six-book shortlist for the prize — Cynthia Ozick for Foreign Bodies and Ann Patchett for State of Wonder.   

The prize is open to any novel by a woman published in English.