Hold onto your hearts if you want to survive this Greek mythology retelling because The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller will have you crying by the end of it.
I have to admit, that the only reason why I have fallen in love with Greek Myth is because of Madeline Miller. Her beautiful prose, scenes that are vividly real and characters that grab your attention, all are testament to her craft of writing.
Circe was the first Greek myth retelling that I read by her that stole my heart and although The Secret History by Donna Tart is another favourite among book readers, I will say that I didn’t like it and felt off about reading Greek Myth.
However, Circe by Madeline Miller changed my mind. The Song of Achilles is her first novel, but I ended up reading it after Circe and I would recommend that strategy. You’ll come across some of the same characters featured in Circe and it was just a good contrast, regarding how differently they were depicted.
I would like to mention here that Greek Myth isn’t for everyone, you may not enjoy narcissist, wasteful gods sparring and fighting over women. It is quite misogynistic. But Madeline Miller brings out the strong female goddesses and witches, that ultimately defined these stories. For now though, I’ll be focusing on the book review for The Song of Achilles.
As a noob to Greek myth, the closest that I had gotten to know about Achilles was his heel – you know Achilles heel. So when I read in this story that Achilles was prophesied to be a Hero and his amiable qualities, I got interested. But if you think this book is about him and his glorious journey, well you’re kinda wrong.
“What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another. We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory… We are men only, a brief flare of the torch.”
The story begins with Patroclus as an awkward young prince who gets exiled as he commits murder and gets caught. He also isn’t in the good graces of his father, so that just made matters worse for him. Now you see, throughout the story Patroclus has some self esteem issues and he doesn’t seem himself too highly even though he is a prince.
“Name one hero who was happy.”
That is until he meets Achilles – the son of a mortal King Peleus and Thetis; a sea goddess. His parents aren’t on the best terms either, and their union was a result of Peleus “ruining” Thetis where she had to concede to his hand in marriage. Anyway, Patroclus is exiled to Phtia where King Peleus rules, and over the course of the years he forms a relationship with Achilles.
“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”
It is obvious from the start that the both of them cannot be separated even though, Thetis is against their relationship as she believes Patroclus will affect the prophecy of Achilles being a hero and undermine his reputation when he comes in power. The story then progresses over a few years where the boys grow up, and eventually they are called to avenge and rescue Helen of Sparta who is kidnapped by Prince Paris of Troy.
“Our men liked conquest; they did not trust a man who was conquered himself.”
Thus begins, a journey where Patroclus and Achilles must fight for Helen and their relationship, as being a hero won’t come easy. And here is where I will stop and avoid giving too much of the story away and talk about how I felt about the most heartbreaking end.
“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.”
Throughout the story, I felt like telling Patroclus that you’re not weak, you’re not unimportant, and you’re amazing, he just didn’t think he was worth it, and I get that Achilles mother didn’t make matters easy either. The end was beyond anything I could handle, I legit cried because it proved everyone that Patroclus was a force to be reckoned with it.
“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”
I enjoyed this book a lot, even more than I imagined I would. And although, the subject matter may not agree with everyone, Greek myth somehow interests me a lot and I want to read both: Illiad and Odyssey now.
Before that I hope Madeline Miller releases another book as thrilling and riveting like Circe and The Song of Achilles.
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 4.0/5.0
- Favourite quote: “You can use a spear for a walking stick, but it will not change its nature.”
- Reader level:
- Should you read: If you enjoy Greek Mythology retellings.
- Would I read it again: Oh yes, definitely.
Till next time,