I didn’t think that I would dive into another Madeline Miller novel so soon, but “Song of Achilles” was listed as a free book with Amazon Unlimited and I did not want to pass up the opportunity for a complimentary read. A few Instagram book bloggers also raved about the storyline so I eagerly pursued the “download” button on my Kindle.
Once again, I did not know what to expect in terms of the plot and all characters were foreign to me. I vaguely remembered learning about Achilles in my high school literature class, that he was one of the greats in Greek Mythology but his “heel,” his downfall, was hubris- His excessive pride and self confidence that ultimately got him killed.
This book takes the reader back to the beginning though, to childhood, and opens with another character. Patroclus was an exiled young prince, left to remain in the kingdom of Phthia without any family members or friends, wealth or resources. He was awkward, showed no special talents and portrayed no inclinations toward a life of greatness. Most of his time was spent alone, observing the world around him and struggling to forget his tainted past.
Achilles, the son of King Peleus and “the best of all Greeks,” begins to show interest in him and decides to name Patroclus his Therapon, companion or “brother-in-arms sworn to a prince by blood oaths and love.” The novel builds upon their friendship, pulls back the curtain on some of their adventures as they grow into young men and begin to walk their fated paths. Achilles is meant to be a warrior- he is strong, confident and eager. Patroclus is more cautious, softer, but balances Achilles in a way that becomes necessary for survival. Mutual adoration turns into something deep and powerful- A love that overcomes every obstacle that threatens to pull them apart.
I was surprised by the connection between Patroclus and Achilles, mainly because no movie or book had before showcased the same-sex union. I was engrossed in their passion, however, smitten with their sweet and tender care for each other. Triumphs were uplifting and setbacks were unsettling. I really became invested in the character development aspects of the tale as the Trojan War plotline unfolded.
I can see why this book was a 2012 Winner of the Orange Prize of Fiction and is a New York Times Bestseller: Like “Circe,” Madeline Miller presents us with a fresh take of the past, some of the world’s oldest accounts of classical literature. Her novels elevate every related concept that I learned in school and nestle the characters deep within my heart. I don’t need flashcards to remember names like Achilles, Hector, Helen, and Agamemnon; I now know them personally. I know their motives, their fears, their greatest strengths and most haunting regrets.
FINAL SCORE: 4.5 This book is a beautiful tribute to classical literature, same-sex unions, friendship and loyalty that transcends beyond most depictions that we see today… This book is a tribute to exceptional writing. I am blown away by the vividness of Madeline Miller’s imagination on paper and will definitely read this book again, just to feel the intensity between Patroclus and Achilles. What a satisfying retelling, from beginning to end.
BEST FOR: Love Story Devotees
NOT GOOD FOR: Rigid Minds
IF THIS BOOK/ AUTHOR WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STEREOTYPE: The Athlete
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