Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury Publishing)

I finished The Song of Achilles today, and have barely been able to stop crying in the hours since. I knew what I was getting into when I started the book but nothing can prepare you for such a heartbreak.

A mythology retelling, The Song of Achilles is from Patroclus’ perspective and tells of the romantic relationship between him and Achilles, without deviating too much from the original mythology. In fact, Miller might have stayed truer to Homer’s work than many adaptations since.

Madeline Miller teaches classics to high school students and also has an MA in classics from Brown University, so she is very familiar with the mythology she writes about. The Song of Achilles was published ten years ago, and more recently, her book Circe was a hit.

Starting in Patroclus’s childhood, winding through his first encounter with Achilles and how the two became friends and then slowly fell in love, the obstacles they faced like a disapproving mother, and eventually, the Trojan War, I really felt like I knew these characters and I felt for them and their dilemmas. I really adored Patroclus and how he always tried to do the right thing–he never had the kindness stamped out of him, even in the tough society he grew up in and the bloodshed he saw. Meanwhile, Achilles became too focused on his own glory that he sometimes lost his way. Most of the time, Patroclus was like his moral compass, his guiding light. In some ways, I kind of pictured Patroclus as Merlin and Achilles as Arthur from the BBC show Merlin, but I could just be reaching here. It’s just how I saw them, and I kind of loved them more for it.

Also, as with Circe, I adored the writing style. But I actually think The Song of Achilles was better than Circe. Circe was written in a more cold and aloof manner, while The Song of Achilles felt more personal and relational. I felt everything more deeply.

Among those feelings, like some of my favorite quotes–but most of all the one I saw floating around before and now finally understand: “He is half my soul, as the poets say.”

Writing that sentence actually made me tear up again.

The only negative thing I have to say about this book is I think it should have ended sooner than it did. I didn’t care about meeting Pyrrhus at the end or the events that followed the, um, tragedy. I get why it had to be done, to stay true to the mythology somewhat and resolve everything, but it would have felt neater had it been resolved sooner.

Overall, I loved this book. I can genuinely say it’ll wreck you and in the same breath order you to go read it. 5 stars.

Bloomsbury’s Book Trailer for the Song of Achilles here.

Madeline Miller’s Instagram here.

Madeline Miller’s Twitter here.

By myadventure2017

Writer, Reader, Bookstagrammer, Booktoker, Blogger

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