Five Star Book: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I felt like I had been in a bit of reading rut, I know that must be frustrating to hear from people who follow me on Goodreads and see that I’ve finished a bunch of books in the last few months. But that is mostly a product of my 30-40 minutes each way on the brown line every day to work than anything else. I’ve loved books I’ve read (obviously) but I haven’t felt the compulsion to read lately, until I picked up The Song of Achilles on a whim from the library last week.

I stayed up way too late the first night reading it and then spent the whole next day at work whining to my friend Lindsey that I just wanted to be reading my book.

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of The Iliad, in modern language but in the original setting, from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles “companion,” but Miller dispenses with euphemism and tells their story as a love story. This could have been a cheesy gay romance novel, complete with ‘classical costumes’ and stilted dialogue, but instead it’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking story of dealing with preordained fate. Because that’s the thing about these Greek stories, they tell you the ending on the first page, and you know you’ll be crying by the last chapter (and believe me I was…). But Miller has made Patroclus into such a full, relatable and lovely character that I just wanted to spend as much time with him as possible, which I guess is sort of the trajectory of his relationship with Achilles in this telling too.

I haven’t ever finished the full Iliad, but I know that Miller has filled in a lot blanks, but she does so in a way that makes the gods and heroes relatable and very human – especially Achilles’ mother the sea-nymph who’s ambition and disappointment for her mortal son are expertly portrayed. If any of this sounds at all intriguing you should read this book, if you’re anything like me it’ll be a quick read.


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