The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a retelling of The Illiad, told from the perspective of Achilles’ companion Patroclus. The story starts at their youth and follows the two through their involvement in the Trojan War.
I looked for this book after hearing that it was a powerful read (No one truly likes crying, but I love to feel moved by a story). This is an impressive first novel from Miller, which I hope is the beginning of a long career that will reduce me to tears.
I would like to start by commending the characterization. Patrolcus is a wonderfully complex character, but more impressive is the development of Achilles. One of my roommates admitted before reading this book that she didn’t think she would like Achilles, as she hadn’t liked his character in The Illiad. By the end, she had grown to love him. Miller humanizes him, showing how destiny and divine gifts can combine to make a killer out of a kind man. He is proud, gullible, and trusting. The characterization of Achilles makes him human. Flawed but still deeply good.
Despite one’s superior skill in war and divine lineage, the relationship still feels equitable. One thing in particular I liked about Patroclus and Achilles is their stability. Portrayals of romantic and passionate relationships are frequently also tumultuous and possessive. This always bothers me, as having passion seems to be more important than being loving or healthy. This is not the case in this novel. They are passionate, while also stable, trusting, and loyal. The two are never jealous, never faltering. It’s an example of love in its best light.
Madeline Miller excels in her debut, with prose that is visceral and emotive. A beautiful interpretation of a classic story, this novel is not to be missed.
Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Ecco (HarperCollins)
My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (5 stars)
Recommended for: Anyone who loves mythology and classics. Anyone who likes a good love story. Anyone. Everyone.