The Song of Achilles. Madeline Miller. Greek mythology/Young adult/LGBT. 2012. 369 pages. 5 stars.
We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.
The legend begins…
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.
He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.
Troy is one of my favorite movies so I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to hop on this book. The Song of Achilles tore my heart to pieces with its wonderful narration and devastating ending. It tells the story of Achilles through the eyes of his lover Patroclus. It is a fresh perspective to read the story of Achilles because we get to see them both not as the well-bred warriors but as princes who have fallen from grace.
One does not need to be familiar with Greek mythology or the Trojan war to enjoy this book! However, the visuals of the movie did enhance the reading experience for me
mainly because I love picturing Achilles as Brad Pitt.
For those who are wondering, the love between Patroclus and Achilles, while obvious, was not in any way inappropriate. Granted, there were some sex scenes, but they were not detailed enough to make young readers uncomfortable. What I loved about their romance is that it need not be in your face to be felt. We can easily convey their love for each other in the little details in the book. There is no need for grandeur or spectacular admissions. What mattered was they loved each other, and that was that.
“Name one hero who was happy.”
I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back.
“You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I know. They never let you be famous AND happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” He took my palm and held it to his. “Swear it.”
“Because you’re the reason.”
I do have to point out that most of the narration of this story is overarching, like someone recounting their memories rather than someone actually living through the story. It is told in the same way a grandmother would tell her grandchildren about her childhood–in passing and brief. A span of three years can be covered in one chapter; while a night can be covered by three chapters. It varies as the story progresses. I had no problem with this because it paces the story accordingly!
For those who are familiar as to how this story ends, prepare your hearts to be broken more than you have ever anticipated. The last few pages of this book completely devastated me and reduced me to tears because it was that sad yet beautiful.
Despite the tears and heartache, I was so moved by this story that giving it anything less than 5 stars would have been a disgrace. The Song of Achilles deserves all the praise and awards it received because it makes the reader feel, and feel, and feel some more.
And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.