Review: The Song of Achilles

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a novel set in ancient Greece and tells the story of the love between Achilles and Patroclus. The title could refer to a song sung by Achilles or it could also refer to a song sung about Achilles.

The title of the book may be The Song of Achilles but the story is narrated by Patroclus, an awkward young prince who has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia after accidentally murdering his friend over a game of dice. Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess and yet Achilles takes Patroclus under his wing and soon they develop steadfast friendship. From there on, their bond develops into something deeper, much to the outrage of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

 

“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” – Patroclus

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Achilles joins their cause to fulfill his destiny to become the greatest warrior of all time. Patroclus, through fear and love for his companion, follows Achilles to fight in the war, neither of them knowing what tests the future years will hold for them.

I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology. So, I decided to read this modern retelling of Homer’s the Illiad. Miller has taken one of the most legendary and familiar of stories from the Illiad and successfully managed to create a modern masterpiece out of it. In the Illiad, Patroclus is a relatively minor character. But in this book Patroclus is chosen as the narrator which would have been quite tricky after his death but Miller pulls it off brilliantly. Patroclus’s narration gives a convincing account of his childhood, the events leading up to the Trojan War and the War itself.

This depiction of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a overwhelming love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

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