The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published: September 20, 2011
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
The Song of Achilles sets out to humanize the immortal hero Achilles, and accomplishes this as well as introduces a heart-wrenching romance to the classic story that had me sobbing in agony by the end.
I’m glad that I read The Iliad before picking this up because I was able to understand a few hints and analogies (such as when Achilles inadvertently cuts off his father when he’s telling a VERY IMPORTANT story) that would have gone over my head otherwise. I’ll admit that I was not very familiar with the non-Homeric Achilles myth, so some aspects of the plot were brand new to me.
Patroclus is a wonderful and caring character who I absolutely loved. Seeing him and Achilles grow together was an enchantingly beautiful experience, and was by far my favorite part. Being able to see the Trojan war through the eyes of a man rather than one of the gods was refreshing and added layers to the scene that the original text glossed over in the interest of contributing to the epic myth.
Achilles is pretty childish in The Iliad, and he remains so in this interpretation of the classic. However, Miller does an amazing job humanizing the immortalized hero, making him more than a spoiled child having a tantrum. By the end, I was crying at all of the pain the characters felt. This is definitely a book that I will pickup and reread, both because of the beauty of the relationship and the prose which I was enraptured by.