The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller gives us the story of the Trojan War from a different perspective. We are used to thinking about Achilles the warrior, Achilles the brave, Achilles-the-man-with-no-weakness. Well, how about tempering that with Achilles the thoughtful, Achilles the true, Achilles the lover?
Not that Madeline Miller doesn’t still give us plenty of wartime and fighting: because she does. The second half of the book is set during the Trojan War. But the first half – oh the first half. It is something completely different.
I picked up The Song of Achilles after reading a rave review at The Book Smugglers. No way could I pass it up after seeing that. I was immediately intrigued at the thought of a love story between Achilles and Patroclus. (If you’ve read The Iliad, you know how much sense it would make if they really had been together.) And then, once I started reading, I was thrilled to see that it was even better than I expected.
After an accident, Patroclus is exiled from his home (where he was constantly bullied by his father for being perceived as weak) and goes to stay at the court of Achilles’ father. Achilles unexpectedly sort of adopts him as a best friend, and from then on they do everything together. Since we’re talking about two growing, hormonal boys – everything eventually grows to include romantic and sexual explorations.
The character development in The Song of Achilles is out of this world. I bow down to Madeline Miller. She did a phenomenal job at getting us from Patroclus and Achilles’ initial meeting, to how they became friends and then how they grew into so much more. Patroclus makes an excellent narrator.
Seeing Achilles through his eyes is seeing him in a way you never have before. He isn’t just the warrior-God we’ve all heard stories about. He can be sensitive, kind, thoughtful and extremely loving. Seeing him this way makes him a so much more well-rounded person than I’ve considered him in the past. I couldn’t have enjoyed reading The Song of Achilles more if I tried.
If you’re interested in mythology, war or just a great love story – pick this up and prepare to be amazed. Madeline Miller came up with a brilliant concept and executed the heck out of it. It is not to be missed.