Book review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Title: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication date: 20 September 2011

Genre: Mythology | Adult

Page extent: 352 pages

Goodreads blurb: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Where do I even start with a book like this? Sometimes I think knowing the pain that you’ll feel makes a book even more devastating, as if the constandt dread at the events you know are coming just makes everything hurt so much more. The Song of Achilles is like that. I first read it a few years ago, but my reread this month really just made everything so much more heartbreaking. Rereads really help you catch so much more foreshadowing and I really need to make the effort to reread more often, because this was just stunning.

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus, the kidnapping of Helen, and the Trojan war. Following Patroclus from a young age as he accidentally kills a noble son and is exiled, we watch him meet Achilles and see them unepexctedly grow close. We read as Patroclus and Achilles go to the ends of the earth in their love for each other and see the pain and heartbreak as the events at Troy occur.

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.

GAAAAH this book is just so full of emotion it’s so difficult to write a review for. The love between Patroclus and Achilles is just so obvious and shines throughout the book. They are both so willing to forgive each other for every wrong, willing to stay by each other no matter how much it hurts. Much like me being so willing to reread this book no matter the pain it causes. Imagine someone repeatedly punching through your chest until there is a a massive gaping hole inside you THAT IS READING THIS BOOK.

I just want to hug and scream at these two boys. It’s such a beautiful retelling, full of humanity and godhood and what happens when someone is pulled in both directions. We see Achilles struggle with the weight of the sacrifice he must make for godhood and see him choose his humanity, choose his love for Patroclus, this the very thing that makes him so human in the eyes of Thetis, his goddess mother. And then we can only watch on in knowing and uncomprehending eyes as this becomes the very thing which tears him apart.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.” 

Miller effortlessly tells us of famous Greek heroes and gods and weaves the tapestry of Ancient Greek mythology with such confidence – it’s such a detailed story with so many different characters. The worldbuilding and detail required to portray all these characters, some many of us will have heard of so often, is brilliantly done – it really is effortless and we learn so much about all of the gods and heroes without feeling overwhelmed.

Rereading was rough. It is such an emotional and utterly devastating story and I found it even more so on this reread. The Song of Achillies is simply Patroclus and Achilles, two halves of one soul, and a book which tore me apart.

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

2 thoughts on “Book review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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