Review: The Song of Achilles ~ by Madeline Miller
352 pages (paperback) ~ Literary Fiction/Greek Mythology
2011 ~ Bloomsbury
My Rating: 5/5
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights, their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.
This book was absolute magic. Reading Circe was a transformative experience, and The Song of Achilles had the same profound impact on me. Though I related to Circe’s story more, mainly because it dealt with so many women’s issues, I really loved the way that Miller was able to give so much depth to a story that I thought I knew. Since there are so many beautiful reviews of this book, I will keep mine short and sweet by listing a few of my favorite elements of the book.
- The guilt of war – in other stories of Achilles he is portrayed as a killer. I really liked that Miller used his relationship with Patroclus to show his guilt over the lives he was forced to take. This conveyed his goodness and Patroclus’ influence on him.
- The subtlety of their love story – Patroclus and Achilles’ love for each other is never overtly stated, instead, the reader feels how much they love each other through their actions. Miller does such an amazing job of conveying their deep love and admiration for each other in such a poetic and subtle way.
“He is half my soul, as the poets say.”
- Concept of fame – the story really plays with the idea of fame since this is something that Achilles chases throughout the book. It brings up questions of fame’s importance to history. One of my favorite quotes from the book addresses this question:
“Fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another? We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory….We are men only, a brief flare of the torch. Those to come may raise us or lower us as they please. Patroclus may be such as will rise in the future.”
I thought this quote was really interesting considering that the book seems to be attempting this very thing.
- Remembered for his goodness – The ending of the book was heartbreaking and beautiful. Achilles is a hero who is known for his ruthlessness and his ability to cut men down. However, Miller does an amazing job of attempting to rewrite his history. Instead, we remember Achilles through Patroclus’ eyes. He is remembered instead through this great and epic love story, rather than for death and destruction.
“They do not come as words, but like dreams, rising as scent from the rain-wet earth. This, I say. This and this. The way his hair looked in summer sun. His face when he ran. His eyes, solemn as an owl at lessons. This and this and this. So many moments of happiness, crowding forward.”
I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Greek Mythology, however, I think that everyone would enjoy it. There is no need to have prior or extensive knowledge of mythology before going into this book.
If you have read it, or plan to, leave me a message!
For more information on Madeline Miller and her books, check her out on Goodreads.