The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Ecco (August 28, 2012)
Page Count: 416 pages
Genre: Historical, Action, Romance (M/M)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thank you so much to Aentee @ Read at Midnight for recommending this book to me. Actually, what she said was, “The Song of Achilles will give you the world’s most painful and delightful book hangover,” which is both a ringing endorsement and an incredibly accurate statement.
It’s hard to enjoy a book when you know how it’s going to end. By which I mean, it’s painful to get emotionally invested in characters when you know their fate, and you have to force yourself to turn the page, knowing what’s about to happen. I think most people know the story of the Trojan War. Even if you didn’t read The Illiad in high school, the myth of the Trojan Horse is one that every kid learns growing up.
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the events leading up to the Trojan War, from the point of view of Patroclus, best friend to Achilles. We know the story of Achilles, hero of Greece, a legend. Few know the story of Patroclus, especially the one that Madeline Miller set out to tell.
Scholars have debated for decades about the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. They were sworn companions, best friends. But some believe their relationship went beyond this, and that’s a position that the author agrees with.
“That is– your friend?”
“Philtatos,” Achilles says, sharply. Most beloved.
So this novel is many things: it’s a story of war and friendship, it’s a coming of age story, it’s about fate, but ultimately, in my opinion, it’s a love story.
I really enjoyed the unique perspective of watching history unfold through Patroclus’ eyes. We follow him growing up from a young boy, exiled from his home for accidental murder and sent to a strange land. His childhood friendship with Achilles is sweet, lovely, and the way that friendship blooms into romance and sexual attraction as they become teenagers was heartbreakingly beautiful.
They’re two boys who are destined for very different paths, but who refuse to be parted despite their fates.
Is it considered spoilers to tell you what happened in a story written thousands of years ago? Probably not, but just in case you might want to stop reading here.
Knowing that the novel could novel could not have a happy ending made it difficult to read. Actually, it was the reverse of what Patroclus describes during their decade-long campaign against Troy; first I was able to ignore it, not think about it, but as the end grew closer I couldn’t help but feel dread with every turn of the page.
The entire novel was like a dream to me, lyrical and profound and heart-wrenching. But where that dream slipped was at Patroclus’ death. The novel was told from his point of view, and I struggled with the sudden change in perspective, tone, and mood.
Overall a really gorgeous book, a fresh take on a classic epic, and a fantastic love story.
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