The Song of Achilles

the-song-of-achilles-madeline-miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

Author: Madeline Miller

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Rating: 5/5

“Afterwards, when Agamemnon would ask him when he would confront the prince of Troy, he would smile his most guileless, maddening smile. ‘What has Hector ever done to me?’”

This review is brought to you in partnership with “I may never recover” and “Why did that have to end?” That was SO BEAUTIFUL! I finished it at 6:30 AM (I’m an early bird) and subsequently dissolved into a puddle as I got ready for work—in the best way, of course.

Retellings are one of my favorite types of fiction to read, and this was no exception. I picked up The Song of Achilles after reading Miller’s Circe, which I also loved, and I was not disappointed.

“’Will you come with me?’ he asked. The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death. ‘Yes,’ I whipsered. ‘Yes.’”

The story follows the life of Patroclus, known in Greek mythology as the best friend and sworn companion of Achilles. After being exiled from his father’s court, he is sent to Phthia, where Achilles is prince. They form an unlikely bond that, in time, blossoms into a true and passionate lifelong romance.

Then the Trojan War begins, and the peace and ease of their lives is changed forever. Their love never does. But prophecies and glory and war are relentless, and the way Miller spins this classic tragedy is hypnotizing and heart-wrenching and so, so beautiful.

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

I particularly loved how Miller characterized Patroclus. The book is written in his first person, but rarely does he describe his own facial expressions or other nonverbal details. All we get is a few feelings, straightforward dialogue, and every small piece of information about Achilles that could be imagined. The result is a true understanding of the depth of Patroclus’ love and a reverberant inference of his emotions.

24 hours later, and I’m still a puddle. I am still in denial that it’s over. Don’t miss this one.

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