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Review: Song of Achilles
October 20, 2016
If you’re looking for a book that will pull at your heartstrings, cause you to sob incessantly for a good 40 minutes, and make you unreasonably obsessed with Homer’s “Iliad,” then “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller is a definite must-read.
I stumbled upon the book while scanning my ‘suggested readings’ list on my Kindle, and was intrigued by the high ratings it had received. The cover did not really do much to pique my interest, and neither did the bland summary the website provided of the book, which described a rewrite of the famous Greek epic that I had Cliff-noted for an English class. Despite its plain appearance, I decided to give the novel a try.
True to its description, “The Song of Achilles” rewrites the familiar story of the ancient Greek warrior and demigod Achilles. Instead of focusing on Achilles’ heroic deeds or his famed heel, the novel is told in the perspective of Patroclus, the exiled Prince of Opus and Achilles’ most beloved companion.
I am usually quite critical toward cheesy romantic novels filled with overdone sacrifices, hand clasping, and desperate proclamations of “no, I love YOU more,” but “The Song of Achilles” maintained a balance that was neither overwhelming nor cliché. The novel’s formal tone and simple descriptions realistically captured a genuine connection between two people and their nervous hesitation of being caught having a LGBT relationship in ancient Greece.
To my surprise, I became invested in the characters astonishingly quickly, and I was pouring over the descriptions of the duo growing up together and realizing who they were. I flipped through the book eagerly as the emotional bond they formed evolved from one stage to the next. I was soon absorbed in the plot of cruelty and bloodshed during the Trojan War and the character development of both main and background characters.
Despite my awareness that a novel of tragic Greek heroes in war could not possibly end with a happily ever after, Miller was able to pull me through the heart-wrenching tale of Patroclus’ experience of being in love with the greatest warrior in Greek mythology.
Overall, Miller’s interpretation of the story of Patroclus and Achilles is one that was emotionally poignant without being overly dramatic, and I would definitely recommend it to those who are emotionally ready enough to handle the turmoil of a book filled with tragedy and tears.