The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Review

Recently I came across this book and immediately fell in love with the author’s words, how beautifully she weaved her words of this famous Greek tragedy. I started penning a small review in my journal, pardon my writing. See the images given below. 

“I conjure the boy I knew. Achilles, grinning as the figs blur in his hands. His green eyes laughing into mine. Catch, he says. Achilles, outlined against the sky, hanging from a branch over the river. The thick warmth of his sleepy breath against my ear. If I have to go, I will go with you. My fears forgotten in the golden harbor of his arms. The memories come and come. She listens, staring into the grain of the stone. We are all there, goddess and mortal, and the boy who was both.”

Miller does something unique for classic myth in her fictionalization of Achilles and Patroclus. Not only does she successfully offer an interesting and innovative degree of tragedy to the legend’s plot, but she also introduces consequences to elements of the story that previously had none. The rape of Thetis, the sea nymph, dominates the novel’s turns. Achilles’ destiny becomes entwined with the goddess’ distaste for mortals and the suffering that she has incurred at their hands.

Similarly, the love affair between Achilles and Patroclus is not without consequence. Where such desires are excused among younger boys (who are expected to ‘grow out’ of their proclivities) or wealthy aristocrats who use slaves for the purpose, Achilles and Patroclus are often regarded with disdain and confusion. At a number of points in the story, their choice to pursue a relationship (albeit a choice that is typically restricted to private moments) is a point of tension.

I enjoyed that Miller prevented The Song of Achilles from feeling blind to consequence. Although cultural and social differences quite clearly existed at the time, Miller offers a dose of reality to the implications of choices that, in some way, defied norms. It is a brave choice and, at times, means that there are almost too many motivations and narrative threads at play. Fictionalising myth is, however, no easy task. Miller manages to keep The Song of Achilles grounded in its origins, whilst still offering a twist that makes the novel feel both appropriately contemporary and exciting.

I truly urge everyone to give this book a chance, you won’t regret it. Keep some tissues ready though  😉

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