Review: The Song of Achilles
‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller
a review by Megan Robinson
The Song of Achilles is set in Greece in the age of heroes. We follow Patroclus and his tender friendship with demi-god Achilles, a bond that blossoms into something deeper as they grow into young men. But when Helen of Sparta is kidnapped, Achilles is dispatched to distant Troy to fulfil his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
I just want to start by saying, The Song of Achilles may be one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read in my 22 years of life (and I have read a lot of books during this time, Dave can confirm this…I most definitely can – Dave: AKA Megan’s dad)) Now, onto my opinions on this masterpiece. To begin with, Miller has a BA and MA in Latin and Ancient Greek, so it comes as no surprise that this book is very accurate, and Miller clearly knows what she is talking about. At the beginning of the novel, if you aren’t that knowledgeable about Greek mythology, it can get very confusing, especially during the scene where Helen picks a suitor as there are a lot of different names thrown around. However, as the novel progresses, it becomes easier to read and you begin to enjoy the novel as it is, regardless if you know anything about Greek mythology.
The thing I loved most about this novel, that a lot of online critics have agreed with, is how Miller does not shy away from the homosexuality that was present in Homer’s original odyssey about Achilles. A lot of historical adaptations (looking at you Troy (2004) movie) completely ignore the homosexuality so obviously present in these myths, not only did Miller include it, she made it the central focus, making The Song of Achilles a historical romance novel. I loved that the novel is written from Patroclus’ perspective, and we get to see his developing relationship and budding feeling for Achilles grow. I loved the change in descriptions used during the blossoming of their relationship. Patroclus goes from being jealous of Achilles and describing him with harsh, bitter language to describing the tiniest details about Achilles in the most poetic language as he begins to fall in love with him. The way Miller writes their relationship was so beautiful and tender, it was purely about the love and respect they have for each other, nothing vulgar; even the brief sex scenes are written so poetically that the sex is even the focus, it’s the emotions.
As beautiful as their relationship is, it is ultimately bittersweet. Anyone who knows Greek mythology knows the fate of Achilles, so throughout the back of my mind was the knowledge that this novel wasn’t going to have a happily ever after. Prepared as I thought I might be, I still cried a lot. Miller does an excellent job of making you root for Patroclus and Achilles, you want them to have their happily ever after that when the heartbreak happens, you feel it yourself. The ending of the novel was so bittersweet. It was not sad, yet it was not happy, it was the perfect balance between the two and although I was crying tears of sadness as I closed the book, my heart felt full and warm with tenderness for these two people and their relationship.
Miller writes Patroclus and Achilles relationship the way anyone would want to experience love. You feel all of the emotions, the highs and the lows, and that is what makes an amazing writer. Whether you are a fan of Greek mythology or not, you should definitely read The Song of Achilles just for the love these two men have for each other. This book has become one of my favourites and I will unquestionably be reading it again.
Review by Megan.