Book of the Month: ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller

Book review by Femke Boom

The book of the month is The Song of Achilles. Many are already familiar with Achilles, either from hearsay or from reading Greek mythology. The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Iliad, but written from the point of view of Patroclus. Patroclus, for those who do not know him, was Achilles’ lover.

“He is half of my soul, as the poets say.”

achilles_smallThe Song of Achilles shows how Patroclus, as an exiled prince, is brought to the court of Peleus (Achilles’ father). Achilles soon befriends him, and their friendship grows more intimate throughout the book. Eventually Achilles has to go to war in Troy, due to Helen of Sparta having been kidnapped. Patroclus comes along, but the war proves to be more demanding than either of them had anticipated.

Madeline Miller stays fairly close to the story of the Iliad, and Ancient Greece is portrayed true to history; the writer has an extensive knowledge on this matter. Not only is The Song of Achilles well representative, the writing style is beautiful. The book is written nearly as lyrical as the title would imply. It shows a different side to Achilles. He is no longer just the warrior of Greek mythology; Miller succeeds in making him human. The love between him and Patroclus is almost tangible – it is both beautiful and fragile. It is not sexualised, which sometimes happens in novels with a homosexual relationship, and feels pure in nature.

Now you might think ‘why would I read this if I know how it is going to end?’. The answer is fairly simple: you will be swept away by the story, and you shall start to care for the characters on a much deeper level. The Song of Achilles is a must-read, and it may conquer your heart (just like Troy was…).

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