The Song of Achilles
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. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, 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 then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

The Song of Achilles Details

TitleThe Song of Achilles
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 20th, 2011
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
ISBN-139781408816035
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology, Lgbt, Fiction, Romance

The Song of Achilles Review

  • Rick Riordan
    January 1, 1970
    A new take on the Iliad, written by a high school classics teacher -- how could I not read this? The Song of Achilles retells the story of Greece's greatest hero from the point of view of his best friend Patroclus. The big twist: Madeline Miller casts the story as a romance between Achilles and Patroclus. While staying true to Greek legends and the works of Homer, Miller creatively and convincingly fills in the blanks, giving Patroclus a back story that makes perfect sense, and tracing the frie A new take on the Iliad, written by a high school classics teacher -- how could I not read this? The Song of Achilles retells the story of Greece's greatest hero from the point of view of his best friend Patroclus. The big twist: Madeline Miller casts the story as a romance between Achilles and Patroclus. While staying true to Greek legends and the works of Homer, Miller creatively and convincingly fills in the blanks, giving Patroclus a back story that makes perfect sense, and tracing the friendship, and eventual romance, between the two young men in a way that casts a new light on the human side of the Trojan War.I always found Achilles to be an unsympathetic character -- a brat, a bully, a big-headed jerk who knows he's the star player on the team and throws a tantrum if he gets put on the bench. Miller shows his unattractive qualities, but she also shows that Achilles is human. He's capable of love. He's deeply conflicted. He has a sense of humor and a gentle side. We see him through Patroclus's eyes, growing from a privileged child to a sensitive teen to a young man struggling to balance his personal feelings with the expectations of an entire country. If you've read the Iliad, you know that the story will have a tragic end, but it's also strangely uplifting and hopeful. I'll never be able to read about these characters the same way again, and that's a good thing. Reading The Song of Achilles put a new light on this ancient story. It was like watching a really good interpretation of a Shakespeare play. You think you know the story, but you're surprised to find how many layers of new meaning can be brought out by a smart production.The book is certainly appropriate for YA and up. The prose is elegant in its simplicity. Miller gives Patroclus a Hemmingway-like directness. I read a New York Times review of this book which I thought patently unfair, complaining that the style made the book seem like a fast-food version of the Iliad. I think this misses the whole point of the story. Patroclus's mission in The Song of Achilles is to cut through the legend of the hero and show us the mortal side of demigod. He doesn't want the pompous metaphors and flowery hyperbole of a war epic to bury Achilles's other qualities -- his tenderness, his insecurity, his honesty and lack of guile. The Song of Achilles can serve as an excellent introduction or counterpoint to the study of the Iliad. It certainly made the story new and vibrant for me, despite how many times I've read Homer.
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  • Lola
    January 1, 1970
    I feel so much. And perhaps my emotions are not my own this time? Madeline Miller for sure implanted them deep inside of me, without my consent, and now I'm urging her to withdraw them, or I will not be able to sleep through the night.It took me a month to read this book, as I needed to take multiple breaks during the experience that is ‘‘The Song of Achilles.’’ I was about to curse the lyricism for welling too many emotions inside my body, too often, and therefore thwarting my reaching the endi I feel so much. And perhaps my emotions are not my own this time? Madeline Miller for sure implanted them deep inside of me, without my consent, and now I'm urging her to withdraw them, or I will not be able to sleep through the night.It took me a month to read this book, as I needed to take multiple breaks during the experience that is ‘‘The Song of Achilles.’’ I was about to curse the lyricism for welling too many emotions inside my body, too often, and therefore thwarting my reaching the ending in less than a month, but then I discovered that it took the author ten years to write this book, so my unreasonable annoyance subsided, ha-ha. Dear readers, brace yourself as you open the first page. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It certainly is grander than I expected it to be, and the love story a thousand times more poignant. Plus, since I had no prior knowledge of Achilles’ bloody story, this was all the more surprising to me. And now I crave mythology like I crave book mail. Patroclus deserves to become a Greek god, although that was never his fate. What I mean by that is that he is compassionate, brave, strong, wise and worth hailing – every quality I believe a god should possess. Achilles, on the other hand, however mortal he may be and so prone to weakness of judgement and power, is harder to connect with. But he is impressive and, ultimately, good, that’s for sure. I am pleased to have read this book, because now I can discuss about the book and the two very discussable characters – Achilles and Patroclus – that make this story so formidable. I cannot wait to hear the thoughts of everyone in my entourage that has read it.Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’
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  • Bookdragon Sean
    January 1, 1970
    Madeline Miller did what the movie producers of the film Troy (2004) were too cowardly to do; she stayed true to the homosexuality of Homer’s Iliad rather than writing a censored version of the story which stank of homophobia. Achilles and Patroclus were passionately in love, which resulted in their respective destructions. They were not cousins or man at arms, but soul mates. The watering down of this in the film Troy was an insult to the LGBT community. Nothing more. Nothing less. The attract Madeline Miller did what the movie producers of the film Troy (2004) were too cowardly to do; she stayed true to the homosexuality of Homer’s Iliad rather than writing a censored version of the story which stank of homophobia. Achilles and Patroclus were passionately in love, which resulted in their respective destructions. They were not cousins or man at arms, but soul mates. The watering down of this in the film Troy was an insult to the LGBT community. Nothing more. Nothing less. The attraction between these two men wasn’t something that was rushed and squandered. It was built up, ever so slowly, and delivered eloquently. The two were friends from boyhood, and Patroclus was enamoured by Achilles after just one glance. He didn’t want to be parted from him. The two grew up together, they fought together, they learnt together and they developed together. They became inseparable and reliant on each other. Their sexual relationship just matured as they did it; it was the most natural thing in the world. Like all relationships, there were issues. The two weren’t without their differences. They clashed and quarrelled but only because they truly cared for each other. Patroclus wanted to end the war, and Achilles didn’t think the fight was worthy of his name: he wanted a bigger war to fight in. So, Patroclus, in his most bravest and stupid move goes against his lover’s wish and tries to end the war with a stroke of his sword. But he is no Achilles: he is not a god of war. He was out of his depth, outmatched and doomed. It could only end in tragedy - "Achilles Laments the Death of Patroclus" 1767. I’ve not included a spoiler warning because everybody knows the story of Homer’s Iliad. Well, at least, I hope they do! Following the traditional narrative arc, Achilles goes on a mad rampage to avenge the death of his beloved. In the process he simultaneously destroys and immortalises himself. He got what he wanted, but not in the way he wanted it. I love the way the author wrote this, I could really feel the desperate rage of an Achilles who had lost the only thing that mattered to him in the world. I’m so glad the author didn’t deviate from the suggestions of homosexuality that were present in Homer’s writing. This would have failed dramatically had she done so. There would have been no power, and, again, like the film Troy it would have been abysmal. The romance plot in here is one of the truest and believable I’ve read to date: it was strong and real. However, this is not to downplay the other aspects of the story. It is driven by romance, but it is not defined by it. There is also a story of growth, and the story of warrior who is out to prove his strength and honour in a world driven by war. He just happens to like guys. A strong four stars p.s- I’ve purposely avoided images of the movie Troy in this review. Anybody who has seen it and read this book really shouldn’t be putting the two side by side, at least, not if they want to make their review fair. One is an insult to the story, the other a novelisation of a timeless classic.
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  • Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥
    January 1, 1970
    ”We were like gods, at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”This book!!! Gosh I loved this book!!! The moment I read the first page I was already certain of two things:1.) This would become one of my all-time favourites and I’d gush about it like crazy.2.) It wouldn’t only leave me devastated and heartbroken but also sobbing like a little child. Well, both of those things came true, even way earlier than I had initially anticipated. I was ”We were like gods, at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”This book!!! Gosh I loved this book!!! The moment I read the first page I was already certain of two things:1.) This would become one of my all-time favourites and I’d gush about it like crazy.2.) It wouldn’t only leave me devastated and heartbroken but also sobbing like a little child. Well, both of those things came true, even way earlier than I had initially anticipated. I was about 37% percent in (yes I looked it up! ;-P) when I first started to cry and it didn’t get any better after that. This book was just so beautiful! So, so damn beautiful! Madeline Miller definitely has a way with words and I loved how this story was written: Poetical with a lot of mythological facts and with so many details that it succeeded to make this a more than just intriguing journey. What I loved the most was how she managed to convey Achilles’ and Patroclus relationship though. Even though she never went into detail, never actually let them say that they loved each other; it was still palpable in every single moment they shared together. Those moments were so precious I couldn’t get enough of them and all I wanted was for them to be happy. Unfortunately I’m a little geek and know a lot about Greek mythology so yeah, I already knew how it would end before it even ended. Still, the sense of foreboding in this book!!! Oh gosh, it killed me!! All those little hints, those infinitesimal innuendos, those tiny insinuations, they piled up and up and up until all I was able to feel was dread!!! By the end of the book I was reduced to a sobbing and crying nervous wreck and the final sentence was like a dagger in my heart. In other words:This was exceptionally painful and utterly devastating, BUTit was also so damn good and worth every second of pain!The characters: This is my spoiler section in which I’m going to speak about the individual characters and what I thought of them. So you better beware and don’t read it if you still want to read the book. Heed my warning or get lost in the underworld. It’s your choice, choose wisely! ;-P Achilles:’Ah.’ A sly smile spread across his face; he had always loved defiance. ‘Well, why should I kill him? He’s done nothing to me.’This sentence killed me when I first read it! Achilles, my beautiful, innocent and naïve boy!!! Jeez! I loved him so much! He was every bit the hero people believed him to be and most of the time he actually did the right thing. Well, most of the time. At the end of the book there happened a lot of things I didn’t agree with and the longer his conflict with Agamemnon lasted the more I dreaded the end! It made me so sad to see how much Achilles changed over the years and when the thing with Briseis happened my reaction was the same as Patroclus’! I mean I knew what Achilles did (I’m a geek remember?) but reading it the way Madeline Miller wrote it? Boy it destroyed me! There was this wonderful, perfect, righteous, honourable, intelligent, innocent and honest golden boy and then the war over Troy tainted him, transformed him and made him an entirely different person. The true tragedy about this all is that he never even wanted to take part in the war, he was more or less forced into it and I think looking at it in retrospective a life as a normal person would have been preferable to the one of a hero. I guess in the end Achilles saw it the same way and would have done everything in order to change his path. Even if it would have meant that he would have been forgotten and would have never become a legend… it would have been worth it. Patroclus would have been worth it… *cries*”I stopped watching for ridicule, the scorpion’s tail hidden in his words. He said what he meant; he was puzzled if you did not. Some people might have mistaken this for simplicity. But is it not a sort of genius to cut always to the heart?””Your honour could be darkened by it.”“Then it is darkened.” His jaw shot forward, stubborn. “They are fools if they let my glory rise or fall on this.”“But Odysseus –“His eyes, green as spring leaves, met mine. “Patroclus. I have given enough to them. I will not give them this.””They grinned, loving every inch of their miraculous prince: his gleaming hair, his deadly hands, his nimble feet. They leaned towards him, like flowers to the sun, drinking in his lustre. It was as Odysseus had said: he had light enough to make heroes of them all.””It is not true. You left yourself today. And now you are returned.”His shoulders rise and fall on a long breath. “Do not say that,” he says, “until you have heard the rest of what I have done.”Patroclus:”I went to Peleus. I knelt before him on a wool rug, woven bright with purple. He started to speak, but I was too quick for him. One of my hands went to clasp his knees, the other reached upward, to seize his chin with my hand. The pose of supplication. It was a gesture I had seen many times, but had never made myself. I was under his protection now; he was bound to treat me fairly, by the law of the gods.‘Tell me where he is,’ I said.”I adored Patroclus! He was the best! He was wonderful and beautiful in his own way and I loved how faithful he was. That boy was one of the kindest and sweetest people I ever read about (tough competition for Lazlo Strange *lol*) and I was so happy Achilles saw this too. He realized that Patroclus is special and he encouraged him to speak his mind. It felt like Patroclus was Achilles’ conscience, intervening whenever his divine heritage showed. Without Patroclus Achilles path would have been dark and bloody but with him at his side he became the glorious figure we all know about. Patroclus was so much more than just a companion. He was a friend, a lover, a teacher, a conscience, a reminder and Achilles past, present and future! This boy was literally the embodiment of Achilles life and actions and the people around them were fools for not seeing their strong connection. Patroclus was everything that was good about Achilles, he brought out the best in him. Taught him compassion and love, he was an anchor and someone he could come home to! Speak to! Confide in! Once Patroclus was gone the relentless godly part of Achilles showed though and the rest of it is (bloody) history. T_T’Patroclus.’ It was the name my father had given me, hopefully but injudiciously, at my birth, and it tasted of bitterness on my tongue. ‘Honour of the father,’ it meant.”Perhaps she thought I was mocking her, flourishing my triumph. Perhaps she thought I hated her. She did not know that I almost asked him, a hundred times, to be a little kinder to her. You do not have to humiliate her so thoroughly, I thought. But it was not kindness he lacked, it was interest. His gaze passed over her as if she were not here.”’Willl you come with me?’ he asked.The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death. Yes, I whispered. Yes.”I do not know this man, I think. He is no one I have ever seen before. My rage towards him is hot as blood. I will never forgive him. I imagine tearing down our tent, smashing the lyre, stabbing myself in the stomach and bleeding to death. I want to see his face broken with grief and regret. I want to shatter the cold mask of stone that has slipped down over the boy I knew. He has given her to Agamemnon knowing what will happen.”Odysseus:”May I give you some advice? If you are truly his friend you will help him leave his soft heart behind. He’s going to Troy to kill men, not rescue them.” His dark eyes held me like swift-running current. “He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”Damn, how much I hated and liked that sneaky and cunning bastard!! I’m still very torn when it comes to him. On the one hand he gave sound advice and knew exactly what he did and on the other hand he forced Achilles on his destined path. If it wouldn’t have been for Odysseus he would have never gone to Troy and even though I agree with his sentiment that Achilles could save them all, I still disagree with the way he played him. Of all the countless men that manipulated young Achilles, Odysseus probably was the worst, hiding behind the mask of a friend but ultimately pursuing his own goals. Clever! Very clever indeed! Agamemnon:”Then you are a traitor to this army, and will be punished like one. Your war prizes are hostage, placed in my care until you offer your obedience and submission. Let us start with that girl. Briseis, is her name? She will do as a penance for the girl you have forced me to return.”I HATE AGAMEMNON!!! Fiercely!!! Such an unfair and dishonourable numpty!!! I hate him and all his actions! I mean what kind of father would trade his daughter away and then kill her?! His own flesh and blood! Gosh, I CAN’T EVEN WITH HIM!! I’m still so angry! Those moments at the end and the tense situation between Achilles and him had me at the edge of my seat and all I wanted to do was to scream at the injustice that took place in front of me!!! Such a stubborn and self-righteous fool!! He should have listened to Achilles but he was too proud to. *shakes head in disbelieve* I. HATE. HIM!!! Enough said! Thetis:Another person that landed on my shit list! *lol* I really, really disliked her too! I mean I understand that she was Achilles mother and only wanted the best for her son, but it was more than just obvious that the best was Patroclus and I hated her for always trying to drive a wedge between them! Without Thetis half of their troubles wouldn’t have even existed and even though she kind of redeemed herself in the end I still don’t like her! Sorry Thet, but you’ll never get a thumbs-up from me! #SorryNotSorrryThe relationship:Achilles & Patroclus:”This morning he had leaped on to my bed and pressed his nose against mine. ‘Good morning,’ he’d said. I remembered the heat of him against my skin.”Ohh how sweet those two were! I loved their relationship! They were so gentle and adorable and no matter what happened and no matter how many obstacles were in their way they always managed to find back to each other! They had confidence in each other and they supported each other regardless of the consequences. Achilles and Patroclus had such an honest and beautiful relationship, I CAN’T EVEN!!!! THIS was the real deal!!! A connection so deep that no one could destroy it, a love so strong that it cast aside all obstacles, their trust so deep that they could talk about everything!!! Boy, I could gush about this relationship at eye level for eternity and still would never get tired of it! *lol* I just adore them so much! It was so sweet they couldn’t even be angry with each other and even though Patroclus wasn’t always happy with Achilles decisions, he still did his best to support him as best as he could, even if that meant that he had to go against his will. I think in the end their unconditional love for each other was the only thing that was able to break them and it eventually did. Jeez! How it did! *cries again* Achilles had no reason to kill Hector, no reason to fulfil the prophecy. Well, at least not until Hector took the only thing that mattered to him, the only thing he didn’t want to live without. Patroclus! *sobs* Hell! The way Achilles grieved!!! It broke my freaking heart!!! It was like a punch in the gut! I know first-hand how much this hurts, how painful it is to lose a person you love so much, and boy did it trigger my emotions. T_T I felt Achilles grief with him and it was so intense it left me crying and sobbing. They were so beautiful together… so, so, so damn beautiful. I can’t anymore… *weeps* ”I saw then how I had changed. I did not mind any more, that I lost when we raced and I lost when we swam out to the rocks and I lost when we tossed spears or skipped stones. For who can be ashamed to lose to such beauty? It was enough to watch him win, to see the soles of his feet flashing as they kicked up sand, or the rise and fall of his shoulders as he pulled through the salt. It was enough.””My pulse jumps, for no reason I can name. He has looked at me a thousand times, but there is something different in this gaze, an intensity I do not know. My mouth is dry, and I can hear the sound of my throat as I swallow.He watches me. It seems that he is waiting.””His eyes were unwavering, green flecked with gold. A certainty rose in me, lodged in my throat. I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me.””Had she really thought I would not know him? I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell, I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.””You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.“I can’t.”“I know. They never let you be famous and happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.“I’m going to be the first.” He took my palm and held it to him. “Swear it.”“Why me?”“Because you’re the reason. Swear it.”“I swear it,” I said, lost in the high colour of his cheeks, the flame in his eyes.“I swear it,” he echoed.”There was more to say, but for once we did not say it. There would be other times for speaking, tonight and tomorrow and all the days after that. He let go of my hand.”All told this was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It caused me to cry, it made me angry, it made me smile and it touched me deeply. I’m a total mess after reading this and my emotions are still all over the place, to say I regret reading it would be one hell of a lie though.I rarely write this into my reviews but: If you haven’t read this, do it now!!! You won’t regret it! =)Last but not least I want to thank my Sweet Sugar Bun who dared to buddy read this book with me! Thank you for all the comments, messages and updates that made it bearable to read this book. I swear if you wouldn’t have discussed this with me I would have cried even more often than I already did. *lol* So yeah, thanks for that wonderful buddy read and for keeping my sanity intact. I really appreciate it! XD We definitely should go for another buddy read some time soon! I heard “Circe” is a nice book too! *lol* ;-PIn the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood, like a hundred golden urns pouring out the sun.”
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  • Navessa
    January 1, 1970
    "Achilles. Who was he if not miraculous, and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?" Reading this is like reading Romeo and Juliet. We all know the story. We all know the outcome. We all know that our desperate prayers for someone, anyone to step in and save these characters from themselves will fall on deaf ears. Gods. What a bloody trainwreck. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I was not prepared for how much I cared.This is the story of the fall of Troy. Or rather, a part of "Achilles. Who was he if not miraculous, and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?" Reading this is like reading Romeo and Juliet. We all know the story. We all know the outcome. We all know that our desperate prayers for someone, anyone to step in and save these characters from themselves will fall on deaf ears. Gods. What a bloody trainwreck. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I was not prepared for how much I cared.This is the story of the fall of Troy. Or rather, a part of it. More specifically, this is the tale of Achilles and Patroclus. Of their undying love for each other. Of the lives they sacrifice on the altar of that love. Of desperate men and petty gods. Of a proud, greedy people engaged in a prolonged, bloody war. So often in historical fiction from this time period I see the sharp edges of the Ancient Greek and Roman cultures smoothed away. I see slaves treated well and women given a voice. I'm happy to say there was none of that bullshittery here. Miller paints the pages of this book in blood and suffering. It is awash with pain and brutality. As it should be. Because historical accuracy. But, it means that this book is not for everyone. There is a lot of sexism, misogyny, violence, bloodshed, and rape, mentioned almost offhand, because, to these characters, this behavior is commonplace. Expected. I didn't like a single one of them. And not just because of their worldviews. There was Achilles and his hubris. Patroclus and his uselessness. Thetis and her coldness. I didn't even like Odysseus and his famous wit, for there was an edge to it in this book that made him seem less charming and more manipulative than I remember. That said, as much as I disliked these characters, I loved their stories. Miller took gods and legends and brought them to life within the pages of this book. She humanized these mythical beings in a way that made them seem real, fallible. I just...I cannot say enough about this book. To me, this is literature at its finest. A beautifully written, masterfully crafted story capable of transporting readers within its pages, so enchanting them with what they find within that they forget that the real world lurks without, waiting for their return. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
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  • Clau R.
    January 1, 1970
    Pa-tro-clus.This and this and this.HOW CAN MY HEART BE MENDED AFTER THIS!????Sólo edito esto para decirles que TIENEN QUE LEER ESTE LIBRO OMG. Favorito del año hasta ahora. Lo amo lo amo lo amo y no hago más que pensar en él. Definitivamente lo voy a releer.
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  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    I feel a bit silly doing this, but I have put a spoiler alert on this review, just in case there are folks out there who might not be versed in the classics. In a nutshell, Boy meet demi-god. Boy gets demi-god. Boy loses demi-god. Wait, demi-god loses boy, goes a bit funny in the head and behaves badly. Greece loses demi-god, the happy couple wind up sharing an afterlife. Madeline Miller - image from her siteYou might want to dust off your Iliad, as this is a retelling of the story of Achilles, I feel a bit silly doing this, but I have put a spoiler alert on this review, just in case there are folks out there who might not be versed in the classics. In a nutshell, Boy meet demi-god. Boy gets demi-god. Boy loses demi-god. Wait, demi-god loses boy, goes a bit funny in the head and behaves badly. Greece loses demi-god, the happy couple wind up sharing an afterlife. Madeline Miller - image from her siteYou might want to dust off your Iliad, as this is a retelling of the story of Achilles, you know, the greatest warrior of his time, from that slightly older work. It is impressive, when looking up details from Miller’s novel, how directly her version corresponds to that of Homer. It was very important to me to stay faithful to the events of Homer’s narrative. The central inspiration behind the book is the terrible moment in the Iliad when Achilles hears about Patroclus’ death. His reaction is shocking in its intensity. The great half-god warrior—who carelessly defies rules, and condemns a whole army to death—comes completely unglued, desperate with grief and rage. I wanted to understand what it was about Patroclus and their relationship that could create that kind of crisis. Although Homer tells us what his characters do, he doesn’t tell us much of why they do it. Who was Achilles? And why did he love Patroclus so much? Patroclus is a twelve-year-old prince down on his luck. Born of a damaged mother and possessed of none of the obvious gifts that make fathers proud, he defends himself against a bully. The bully slips, falls, coshes his deserving skull on a rock and the planet is one bully lighter. Oops, sorry. But since the bully was a royal, Pops exiles Patroclus to the island of Phthia. (Go ahead, try to say it out loud, five times fast, or at all. You know you want to. Sounds like Parseltongue to me.) Luckily for him, the island’s king, Peleus, is kind and receptive. In fact he seems to have made a business of re-treading unwanted, or in-need-of-training blue-bloods, running a sort of island of lost royalty, a military training camp for boys. He is also father to the luminous Achilles. The questionably-heeled one (BTW, the heel never enters the story here. As Miller explains on her website, it was added to the myth of Achilles way later, by the Romans) is presented in such glowing terms that we are uncertain if the author is elevating him to the level of Homeric perfection, or we are seeing the externalization of the smitten Patroclus’ achy smitten-ness. In any case, Achilles turns out to be a pretty decent sort, and takes Patroclus under his wing, even inviting him to share his room. In time it gets steamy. Boys have, well, needs, and their inclinations, it turns out, are in synch. Thankfully the soft-core element of this story cools down enough to give us a look at the times, the idiocy of the Trojan War, and the ridiculousness of leadership, which does not seem to have changed all that much over the millennia. While some physical intimacy is noted, the author very much focuses on the affection between the two as a moving force. What one gets here is a touch and feel (go ahead and snicker) of what life might have been like at the time of the Trojan War. And it sounds like they could have used a few of the more contemporary Trojans, what with unintended pregnancies and all. Patroclus is our eyes and ears, but he is not merely a plot device. He is a fleshed-out character with significant conflicts to resolve, and growth to endure. Miller says, In writing this novel, I thought a lot about personal responsibility. Patroclus is not an epic person, the way Achilles is. He’s an “ordinary” man. But he has more power than he thinks, and the moments where he reaches out to others and offers what he sees as his very modest assistance have huge positive ramifications. Most of us aren’t Achilles—but we can still be Patroclus. What does it mean to try to be an ethical person in a violent world?You will have to suspend your disbelief a bit, as magical things do happen. Just as Homer included magical elements in his epic, so Miller follows. Gods do indeed engage themselves in human affairs. Achilles is the product of a human father and a fishy-dearest sea nymph of a mother. The lads are trained by a centaur, Chiron, who is a pretty cool character, (fans of Harry Potter will recognize in Chiron the source for Hogwarts’ own Firenze, also a teacher of medicine, and overall good guy) and of course the gods can’t help but interfere with the doings of men, like early-version Koch Brothers with training in the Dark Arts. Miller takes the odd liberty here and there. Patroclus, for example, was older than Achilles in the Iliad. They are the same age here. But The Song of Achilles is a novel. Miller gets her important facts right. Of course, the facts have to do with re-creating the story told by the great Greek poet, not, you know, actual facts. Unless of course you are one of those who believes that Achilles’ mother, Thetis, really was a sea nymph, or that the actual Greek gods personally interfered with the goings on down below. There are plenty of people who believe stranger things. In fact, the clearly homosexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is sure to raise the hackles of folks who hold beliefs of a more contemporary theistic bent. Expect to see calls for this book to be banned in the usual places. But really, it’s the 21st century. Get over it. If it was good enough for the Iliad…Miller is a classics scholar and teacher and knows her stuff. What she has done here is take the eternal tale and re-tell it in a manner that is easy to read. In fact it is so easy to read that it felt like a YA title to me. Maybe too easy? She does teach high-schoolers, so I expect that was her target demographic, but it still seemed a bit young to me. While I have no philosophical issue with the same-sex element of the tale, I found the youthful pining and sex scenes mushy and maybe gag-worthy, but once the pairing is secured, the story is free to flow back to Homer’s tale. It does so smoothly and well.One benefit of this book is that it offers young readers an entrée to one of the great works of literature in a more accessible form. I expect that Miller will eventually get around to producing another modern interpretation from the classics. In the meantime, if you are a student, seek this lady out and take her classes. She seems to me like the sort of teacher we all dreamed of having and rarely got, in love with her material and able to communicate it well. =============================EXTRA STUFFDefinitely check out Miller’s web site, one of the better author sites I have seen. She is on FB and Twitter too.May 30, 2012 - The Song of Achilles wins the 2012 Orange Award
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    {BR with Anne and McKenna} Those seconds, half seconds, that the line of our gaze connected, were the only moments in my day that I felt anything at all. Oh cruel, cruel fate! I had found myself thinking why there was so much heartache. Then I remembered this is Greek mythology. Few things interest me more than the monsters, heroes, gods, semi-gods and creatures of the greek myths. I easily get caught up in reading the fates of the legendary heroes. Achilles, Heracles, Odysseus, Hector, Per {BR with Anne and McKenna} Those seconds, half seconds, that the line of our gaze connected, were the only moments in my day that I felt anything at all. Oh cruel, cruel fate! I had found myself thinking why there was so much heartache. Then I remembered this is Greek mythology. Few things interest me more than the monsters, heroes, gods, semi-gods and creatures of the greek myths. I easily get caught up in reading the fates of the legendary heroes. Achilles, Heracles, Odysseus, Hector, Perseus, Jason, Orpheus... I refuse to acknowledge Theseus. He freed the citizens of Athens from their blood-tribute to King Minos, but he was still a douche. Just ask Ariadne. What can I say about The Song of Achilles? The title of a book sets the tone. Madeline Miller's poetic title is simply beautiful to me, and perfectly captures the dreamy contented feel of the book. I have had virtually no complaints and felt no frustration, thanks to the author's extended research. Ms. Miller has managed to create a compelling story, while always staying true to the spirit of the original myth. Odysseus is my favorite character and my alternate universe husband. He has always been my most beloved mythological hero. He may appear to be prideful and arrogant. But he's also super smart and cuddly. He's a cool dork. I felt invested in the characters. The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is as complex as it is simple. They have a special bond. They love each other deeply. Yet there was always something keeping them apart. There are so many beautiful lines in this book. I thought I'd share a few of them with you here. He is half of my soul, as the poets say. "I'm going to be the first." He took my palm and held it to his. "Swear it.""Why me?""Because you're the reason. Swear it.""I swear it," I said, lost in the high color of his cheeks, the flame in his eyes."I swear it," he echoed. “I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” “In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.” Are you as big of a Greek mythology freak as me? If so then this book might interest you.
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  • Jeffrey Keeten
    January 1, 1970
    ”He was a marvel, shaft after shaft flying from him, spears that he wrenched easily from broken bodies on the ground to toss at new targets. Again and again I saw his wrist twist, exposing its pale underside, those flute-like bones thrusting elegantly forward. My spear sagged forgotten to the ground as I watched. I could not even see the ugliness of the deaths anymore, the brains, the shattered bones that later I would wash from my skin and hair. All I saw was his beauty, his singing limbs, the ”He was a marvel, shaft after shaft flying from him, spears that he wrenched easily from broken bodies on the ground to toss at new targets. Again and again I saw his wrist twist, exposing its pale underside, those flute-like bones thrusting elegantly forward. My spear sagged forgotten to the ground as I watched. I could not even see the ugliness of the deaths anymore, the brains, the shattered bones that later I would wash from my skin and hair. All I saw was his beauty, his singing limbs, the quick flickering of his feet.” Madeline Miller studied Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University and even more interestingly studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales for a modern audience. I ignored this book when it first came out because I had read The Iliad twice and plan to read it many more times if the Gods grant me enough time to do so. A reimagining of Homer’s words? There is enough debate over translations of the original source documentation without adding in additional controversy over Miller’s interpretation of events. Or so I thought.After all, aren’t these books designed for a “modern audience” who will never even attempt to read Homer? I am not the target audience, as there is very little modern about me. I have ancient book dust permanently lodged in my lungs. I cough, and the air is redolent with the scent of decaying leather and the intoxicating smell of the slightly hallucinatory book fungi. Miller is doing good work, though, bringing Homer to life for a new generation. Her books are not for me. Or so I thought. When her book Galatea came out, I barely even flinched. A mild flickering of interest, but I was up to my eyeballs in books to read so I easily dissuaded myself from giving it much thought. Deciding to read Galatea would also mean that I would need to read Song of Achilles first because I do believe that books by serious authors build upon one another. I wasn’t taking Miller serious...yet. Part of my resistance came from the fact that I’m not a big fan of Achilles. He might have been ”The Greatest Warrior of his Generation,” but I didn’t find him very heroic. Now Hector, poor doomed Hector, to me he was the hero of The Iliad. I didn’t really want to read a book glorifying Achilles and how effortless it was for him to kill a hundred Trojans in one lazy, bloody afternoon. Or so I thought. The lovely and talented Madeline Miller.I fully expected Miller to fade back into the woodwork of academia, but then this year she published Circe. With one raised Nadalesque eyebrow, I thought to myself, now Circe is someone I don’t know nearly enough about. The five star reviews started raining down on me like thunderbolts from the fingers of Zeus. Cupid shot a quiver full of arrows at me, piercing me in numerous appendages until I looked like Saint Sebastian. If I could have gotten my hands on that pink tinted, chubby, precocious toddler, I’d have turned him over my knee and paddled him with his own bow. Really, I must confess that my new found love for Achilles, Patroclus, Briseis, Chiron, Odysseus, and even Madeline Miller herself could be the result of those love poison tipped arrows. Regardless, does it matter the reason why? Even in an addled state, there is no way I would ever confuse great writing for poorly conceived writing. As I was reading through my notes and savoring favorite passages again, now that Cupid’s fog has cleared from my mind, I must say Miller is a wonderful, lyrical writer. It all begins with a rape. The Greek Gods want to reward Peleus for being such a good subject and decide that he should be given a sea nymph named Thetis as his bride. ”It was considered their highest honor. After all, what mortal would not want to bed a goddess and sire a son from her? Divine blood purified our muddy race, bred heroes from dust and clay. And this goddess brought a greater promise still: the Fates had foretold that her son would far surpass his father. Peleus’ line would be assured. But, like all the gods’ gifts, there was an edge to it; the goddess herself was unwilling.”The Gods whisper in his ear. Don’t even bother trying to woo her with kelp flowers, Aquaoir Ocean aged wine, or shrimp cocktail. The Greek Gods, being rampant assaulters of unsuspecting, pink cheeked, mortal maidens, have no compunction about advocating rape. Jump her on the beach, take her, and make her thine! The Greek Islands are lousy with half Gods. You will meet many of them in the course of this story. Achilles is the greatest of them all. Greater than Hercules. His chosen companion is Patroclus, the disgraced and banished son of a king, an odd choice in many eyes as the closest friend of the greatest warrior. Patroclus is, after all, rather unremarkable at...well...everything. It doesn’t matter, though, because Achilles is good enough at everything for the both of them. Thetis is rather annoyed at his choice. She doesn’t feel that Patroclus is good enough to spend so much time with her son. Her favorite greeting for Patroclus is: ”You will be dead soon enough.” With Patroclus being the narrator of this story, it is rather poor judgement on her part. Any quest I’ve been on I have always plied the narrator with honeyed wine and the most succulent figs in the hope that I would be rewarded in the prose and poetry of his/her telling of the tale. Achilles and Patroclus by Barry J.C. PurvesHomer skates around the closeness between Achilles and Patroclus, although much can be read between the lines. There is also the possibility that some homophobic Christian hundreds of years later made some deft corrections to the original, obscuring any overt reference to a homosexual relationship. Homer may have been blind, but his ears must have heard the rustling of the reed mats whether he was an “eye” witness to the Trojan War or an interpreter of events many years later. Madeline Miller wades into the sweaty bedsheet truth of the matter, and yes, the Greatest Warrior to ever live is light in his sandals. Miller puts flesh on these ancient bones, Gods and mortals alike, and brings a freshness to one of our most venerated stories. Though I resisted, it turns out that Madeline Miller was writing these books for me. She has also given me a burning desire to read The Iliad again while her interpretation is still imprinted so deeply in my mind. I have a feeling my reading experience will be deepened and her observations will glow like phosphorus between the lines.If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visithttp://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
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  • Victoria Schwab
    January 1, 1970
    Epic.
  • Whitaker
    January 1, 1970
    *This review is dedicated to Kelly without whose question I would not have thought so hard about why I loved this book. Miller has called this book “The Song of Achilles”. The title could refer to a song sung by Achilles. It could also refer to a song sung about Achilles. This double meaning is significant as the book retells the story of the Illiad but with a very different focus. The title is significant too because it deliberately recalls the start of the Illiad: “Sing, goddess, of the wrath *This review is dedicated to Kelly without whose question I would not have thought so hard about why I loved this book. Miller has called this book “The Song of Achilles”. The title could refer to a song sung by Achilles. It could also refer to a song sung about Achilles. This double meaning is significant as the book retells the story of the Illiad but with a very different focus. The title is significant too because it deliberately recalls the start of the Illiad: “Sing, goddess, of the wrath of Achilles Peleus’ son”. However, instead of telling us of the wrath of Achilles, it tells us of his softer side: his love or rather his loves—Patroclus and music. To call the story “The Song of Achilles” is, to some extent, misleading, because it is also the song of Patroclus with the same double meaning: a song sung by Patroclus and a song about Patroclus. For the very heart of the book is the love between Patroclus and Achilles. Told by Patroclus from the first person perspective, the question that haunts us right from the start is, “How is Miller going to be able to keep this up once Patroclus dies?” She does, and impressively, presents not simply a perfectly good way to explain that but to make that explanation a crucial part of her story. The other question that is asked, not just by us but by the characters as well, is, “Why Patroclus?” Why of all the young men that Achilles has around him does he choose the awkward, weak exile? The most moving thing about this book is that it proceeds to show us why. Achilles’ answer, almost too glib, is, “Because he’s surprising.” But the real answer, or at least the answer that Miller gives us, is that Patroclus cares, and cares deeply, about other people. It is this that makes him surprising: a man who cares about others in a world of greed and realpolitik where men are, first and foremost, killing machines, and Achilles the best of them all. And it is this care for other people that ultimately triggers the story’s denouement: Achilles' selecting of Breisis, the theft of Breisis by Agamemnon, Achilles’ sulking, Patroclus’ going to war in Achilles’ armour are all explained within that context, arising from and connected to this deep sense of love and responsibility that Patroclus feels for other people’s suffering and his desire to ease it. It is significant that the only other show of love by a man in this book is that of Odysseus for Penelope. His love for her is presented to us several times throughout the book and at a crucial scene at the end. Odysseus, of course, leaves the tale of the Illiad and becomes the hero of his own story, The Odyssey. That tale is, in its own way, a story of love as Odysseus struggles to return home to Ithaca and to Penelope. And through Miller’s tale, so too does the Illiad become—finally—a story of love: the love of Achilles and Patroclus and how they each struggled to keep that love alive. For that, her story deserves to be read and loved too in its turn.
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  • Lucía
    January 1, 1970
    Mi reacción al terminar el libro:
  • Lia Bonnibel (pidgey)
    January 1, 1970
    ACHILLES, it reads. And beside it, PATROCLUS. Can anyone please call my boss and let her know I may not go to work for a week or so? I need time to recover from this book that m u r d e r e d me. No kidding, here. I think getting a Brazilian wax wouldn't have hurt this much.I'm an ugly sobbing mess, running nose and hair pulling included. Wow. What a-wow! I have no words. I can't remember the last time a book made me weep so much. This is the kind of books I like: zero dull moments, fast-paced ACHILLES, it reads. And beside it, PATROCLUS. Can anyone please call my boss and let her know I may not go to work for a week or so? I need time to recover from this book that m u r d e r e d me. No kidding, here. I think getting a Brazilian wax wouldn't have hurt this much.I'm an ugly sobbing mess, running nose and hair pulling included. Wow. What a-wow! I have no words. I can't remember the last time a book made me weep so much. This is the kind of books I like: zero dull moments, fast-paced, character characterization (lol what is this) on point, and stuffed with all the feels and angst a novel is capable of containing. It was wonderful, poetic and the writing was 100/10. If you haven't read it already, please do yourself a favor and give it a try. Goooosh, I'm still shaking. Favorite book of 2017!A huge thanks goes to my lovely little waffle for recommending it to me. You were right, I did do love it! <3
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  • ✨ jamieson ✨
    January 1, 1970
    “We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” way back I said there was a review of this beautiful book to come and I never did it. So now it's June and finally, finally I am ready to review this book. deidamia: marry me ach-achilles: in case you haven’t noticed, i’m gay. i’m gay as fuck. i don’t like girls and i don’t want to... like girls. have you ever seen me without patroclus standing right beside me? that’s gay In a “We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” way back I said there was a review of this beautiful book to come and I never did it. So now it's June and finally, finally I am ready to review this book. deidamia: marry me ach-achilles: in case you haven’t noticed, i’m gay. i’m gay as fuck. i don’t like girls and i don’t want to... like girls. have you ever seen me without patroclus standing right beside me? that’s gay In a weird turn of events, before I talk about me reading this book I'm gonna talk about other people reading this book. Because I've read alot of reviews of this book and alot of them made me laugh. Like, "Madeline Miller twists history to make Achilles gay" or "this is a new take on events" which is just, endlessly funny to me because there's literal, solid evidence Achilles and Patroclus were at least bonded in a way that wasn't considered "typical" for men in Ancient Greece. My actual ancient history professor talked about Achilles and Patroclus probably being gay in a lecture once. So it's really funny to me when people dismiss this book for being historically inaccurate. It's really not. One thing I really like about this book is that, it DID THAT. That Madeline Miller actually decided to tell the story of Patroclus and Achilles - a story, like many other gay narratives in history, people have tried to erase. (Looking at you, Hollywood. Troy making them cousins is Hollywood's biggest shame)To me, it is just really amazing and special that authors are actually rewriting such ancient history and stories to make them lgbt+ and remind people that the internet didn't invent being gay in 2000. It's always been real and people won't stand for that erasure in history anymore. ( by katiemcgrath on tumblr)okay enough ranting. Here's something about the actual book. for those who don't know The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Iliad, focussing specifically on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. It's explicitly a male gay romance and incorporates elements of the myth retold by ancient playwrights as well as the original works of Homer. This book is so beautiful and precious i literally want to launch myself into the sun just thinking about it because I'm suffering and I want it to end. It's a good suffering though. It's a - wow, I'm so invested in these characters and this story it physically hurts me that I'm not reading about them anymore - kind of suffering. Miller's writing is absolutely stunning, so rich and full of beautiful detail. The way she explains things is so tangible and she uses such rich imagery you can't help but immediately fall in love with every chapter, every word even. Some people say this is boring, but I disagree. It's not slow, it's exactly what it needs to be. A slow burn, organic story of two boys falling in love. It's tragic and soft and it hurts and that all is because Miller takes her time to write them so well, to build them up so high the ultimate fall is unbelievably crushing. I wouldn't have had this book any other way, I really wouldn't. Because in the end it's not about a war or tragedy or heroes or even loss - it's about two people and their connection and how much others can mean to us. “In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.” The way Patroclus and Achilles are written really constructs them to be more then the allegorical symbols history has turned them into. Achilles especially, has been written and rewritten and romanticised so much in many ways he's a symbol more then a person. I think Madeline Miller really reversed that. What I love about this is how much she humanises them - these are people living in 1200 bce - and I think people tend to forget those were real people too. Madeline Miller attaches hopes, dreams, passions and sorrows to these characters that makes them so real. You cannot see them as anything other then entirely, blindingly human. The ending of this book left me absolutely shattered, and even though I knew what would happened and I tried to protect my heart from it I just couldn't. You're forced into becoming to invested in these characters and their love for eachother and their love for life and want to just be okay that when they fall, so hard, it truly breaks you. Achilles and Patroclus aside, the other characters were really well written and i liked the small twists on the original story. Thetis and Odysseus were wonderfully written, Odysseus especially was given such cunning and wit it really plays into his character. Again, Miller is able to humanise such a well known and beloved character. The setting and imagery employed to make this foreign and ancient setting come alive felt really well done to me, and despite the foreign concepts it worked out so well. Miller has a degree in the classics, and her knowledge of the period and her expertise in the subject really showed to me. This is genuine, well written ancient historical literature. (by kalebkrychek on tumblr)What I think makes this book so incredibly special is how unique it is. There is no other books in the ya genre that do this kind of thing - that so beautifully and eloquently retell such an old story. I love how this book has inspired so many to learn more about the classics. It truly is a masterful work, something I can see myself reading over and over because it does something I've seen no other ya book do, and it has so much charm and beauty it's impossible not to fall head over heels for it. It's about glory, heroes, blood and war. About joy and love and suffering. About sorrow, mothers, memories. About being remembered, being forgotten. The cruelty of time, the cruelty of men. It's about violence and friendship and death. And I love it so so much. The Song of Achilles is honestly just such a wonderful and beautiful book, I truly think it deserves more praise and recognition. It is the kind of thing I want to just see more and more of, and I cannot wait to read what Madeline Miller comes up with next. he is half my soul ... as the poets say ------------historian: Achilles he --me: -------------
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  • jessica
    January 1, 1970
    when i die and they open me up, they will find this story engraved on my heart. its been nearly 12 hours since i finished this and i still am at a loss for words at the beauty of this book. i dont think i have ever read anything as gorgeous as this and nothing i write will even come close to describing its loveliness. truly, a touching masterpiece. and i will forever be singing its praises until the end of my days. 5 stars
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  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    Fun Fact of the Day : I was in a Latin class my freshman year where the teacher mentioned how gay Achilles was every single sentence. She could not bring up these two without mentioning that they were believed to be in a romantic relationship. That's honestly at least half the reason I picked this book up, so thanks, Magistra Vasquez, for being so extra. Can't wait to have you again next year for AP Latin. Can probably wait for the rest of my life before I translate the entire Aeneid, but that' Fun Fact of the Day : I was in a Latin class my freshman year where the teacher mentioned how gay Achilles was every single sentence. She could not bring up these two without mentioning that they were believed to be in a romantic relationship. That's honestly at least half the reason I picked this book up, so thanks, Magistra Vasquez, for being so extra. Can't wait to have you again next year for AP Latin. Can probably wait for the rest of my life before I translate the entire Aeneid, but that's okay. The Song of Achilles is a romantic retelling of the Illiad. It's written with gorgeous prose, but that's not what really stands out about this novel. Emotion drips from the pages, making it impossible not to at least tear up. That "he never did anything to me" line was REALLY hurtful. For the first 150 pages, this book is a simple romance. While these two main characters are well-built and interesting, I didn't feel much emotion. That all changed over time. As the war begins, Patroclus slowly begins to realize and acknowledge Achilles' faults, leading to a steady character change for him. Both these characters developed so much and were so flawed, yet so interesting. The mythology of this is fairly accurate– sure, some of the plot points around Briseus were far-fetched, but nothing here is disproved by the mythological canon. That made me really happy, although I know many won't really care. Highly recommended just for sheer emotion and character development.
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  • Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
    January 1, 1970
    Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Sabrina The Trash Queen
    January 1, 1970
    “ACHILLES, it reads. And beside it, PATROCLUS” “IN THE DARKNESS, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun” This book was just utterly heartbreaking and breathtaking beautiful. I’m in love with every aspect of it.The end, the end broke me💔! In the best and worst way possible.BR with Khadidja (sorry, I just could wait, had to finish this💗).
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  • Richard Derus
    January 1, 1970
    Rating: 6* of five, 2012's best read by a mile.It's National Book Lovers Day! A day to bask in the amazing power of books to inform, amuse, educate, and alter our views and viewpoints.This review can now be seen at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud!And how wonderful it is.
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  • Whitney Atkinson
    January 1, 1970
    I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory.so wow. I've heard for years that this book is sad but so, so powerful, which I understand. I think it was a leeeeeettle overhyped for me, but it was still a magnificent read. This story had such a great aesthetic. Set in ancient Greece but told through the lens of a quiet, conflicted main character. I thought it was beautiful. The writing, the way that Achilles is described, the first half of this book developing the characters was just absolu I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory.so wow. I've heard for years that this book is sad but so, so powerful, which I understand. I think it was a leeeeeettle overhyped for me, but it was still a magnificent read. This story had such a great aesthetic. Set in ancient Greece but told through the lens of a quiet, conflicted main character. I thought it was beautiful. The writing, the way that Achilles is described, the first half of this book developing the characters was just absolutely gorgeous. Then I began to have a lot of issues with it. Mainly, the whole middle section about the developing Trojan war was boring. Nothing was happening, there were too many characters with unpronouncable names, and Achilles turned into sort of a pompous ass. One of the main downfalls of this story is that it focuses so much on Achilles' honor, and that was so annoying to me. This book really emphasizes the flaws in characters, which I assume is why this was discussed so much, but it just irritated me that I was expecting a love story and there was actually a lot of underlying conflict between Patroclus and Achilles. This is more of a war story and the development of individual characters than it is about a love story. That being said, I felt like the romance was a little bit on the dry side. I adored the two together, but at some points, the story just felt so drained of any emotion and it was like Miller was just slugging through a textbook saying "this happened then this happened then this happened." There were so many moments that I felt we could have taken a step back and added some more impactful imagery and dialogue to make a short scene more meaningful to the reader, but it ended up feeling so stretched thin because this book takes place over 12+ years. Regardless, I cried throughout the last 50 pages of this book. It delivered the punchy ending I was anticipating, and it SLIGHTLY appeased the hatred I have for Achilles' mother. slightly. she's still a raging bitch but like...... a chill raging bitch. (also just kill me so i never have to read that last paragraph ever again my chest hurts)
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  • Judith Starkston
    January 1, 1970
    Madeline Miller says the idea for her novel The Song of Achilles arose from wondering about the extremity of grief Achilles suffers when his closest friend Patroclus dies in the ancient Homeric poem the Iliad. What kind of relationship did they have that Achilles loved Patroclus that much? She answers that question with depth and sensitivity. The novel focuses primarily on the theme of the human capacity to love. In Miller’s interpretation, the gods, and most especially Thetis, Achilles’s mother Madeline Miller says the idea for her novel The Song of Achilles arose from wondering about the extremity of grief Achilles suffers when his closest friend Patroclus dies in the ancient Homeric poem the Iliad. What kind of relationship did they have that Achilles loved Patroclus that much? She answers that question with depth and sensitivity. The novel focuses primarily on the theme of the human capacity to love. In Miller’s interpretation, the gods, and most especially Thetis, Achilles’s mother, don’t understand love, and thus being half-god as Achilles is, sets him up for some complicated trouble in matters of the heart. Told from the point of view of Patroclus, The Song of Achilles is a graceful new exploration of the ancient tale, taking you inside these two heroes in a compelling way. As in the Iliad, from which Miller has drawn the beginnings of her characters, Achilles loves his friend Patroclus with profound intensity, but in Miller’s take, this love blocks out everyone else in Achilles’s view. The half-divine hero seems to have no capacity to love anyone else, not even other friends. Gone are the loyalties and bonds with his fellow warriors that Homer portrays. He doesn’t understand how Patroclus knows and holds in affection many of the men and women they live with and fight for each day, including, interestingly enough, Briseis, the woman over whom Achilles will quarrel with Agamemnon. Achilles notes he doesn’t even recognize most of these people. Even as a boy in his father’s court in Phthia, Achilles does not connect with the other boys with whom he eats and plays each day. “But in all those years, Achilles showed no interest in any of the boys, though he was polite to them all, as befitted his upbringing. And now he had bestowed the long-awaited honor upon the most unlikely of us, small and ungrateful and probably cursed.” And why does he bestow his singular affection on Patroclus? Because, Achilles says, “He is surprising.” No one else finds Patroclus the least bit lovable, at least not until several years into the Trojan War, by which time Patroclus has won many friends through his work in the tent where the wounded are brought and through his kindness to Achilles’s women captives. Since he doesn’t want sex from the women, nor does Achilles, being kind to them is greatly simplified. One of Miller’s conscious choices has been to make the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus entirely exclusive. No captive women appear in the beds of Achilles and Patroclus as they do in the Iliad. The novel starts with Patroclus’s early childhood. His father is disappointed in him almost from the beginning, and his mother is a simpleton, as far an opposite of Achilles’s mother as Miller can portray. When Patroclus accidently kills another boy, his father’s biggest disappointment is that he doesn’t have the sense to lie about it, and his father doesn’t seem overly upset by the need to permanently exile his son. This early emotional deprivation forms Patroclus into a man who will accept Achilles’s odd friendship that grows eventually into love—anything to be accepted, especially by someone so extraordinary.Although Peleus, Achilles’s father, shows warm affection and tolerance for his son, Achilles’s mother, the goddess Thetis, is clearly the source of the “deficient at love” trait in her son. Miller’s Thetis is hard and cold and frightening. Later she will understand that discounting love deprives life, even immortal life, of meaning, but that’s much later when it can do no human good. We learn early on that she hates her mortal husband Peleus. Her single ability to love is directed at her son and even that is never intimate or sweetly maternal. As soon as the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus develops into one of physical love, Thetis appears and makes it clear she despises Patroclus and her son’s love for him. At one point Thetis will trap her son into lying with a woman “because of you,” Achilles says to Patroclus. Thetis’s hatred for Patroclus carries Miller’s plot forward in some essential ways and contrasts effectively with the redeeming nature of their relationship, and that may be why she has developed this divine distaste for the love between two men. But it strikes me as an anachronism, and it’s an ugly one I’d prefer didn’t leak backwards into time where it didn’t exist. Since the main point seems to be, I think, that Thetis doesn’t understand love, why play up so strongly her distaste for male love in particular? Greek mythology is full of male unions (Zeus and Ganymede, Heracles and Jason, Poseidon and Pelops, Dionysus and Adonis to name a few) and Thetis’s virulent hatred arising directly from the physical relationship seems unnecessary and historically unwarranted. It’s true that in the Iliad Thetis reminds her son after Patroclus’s death that “It is a good thing to lie with a woman in love.” But she also reminds him it’s a good thing to eat and drink. She means, it’s a good thing to enjoy life while you can and besides, in the Iliad, Achilles often sleeps with women, so her suggestion is not tinged with criticism as the same statement would be in Miller’s novel. (If anyone’s interested in a scholarly discussion of this issue in the Mycenaean context, read the first chapter of Eva Cantarella’s Bisexuality in the Ancient World). The early indication of Patroclus’s innate honesty (when he fails to lie about the death he’s caused), while a disappointment to his father, is essential to the novel. Patroclus’s virtues don’t coincide with his father’s or Thetis’s ideas of heroic attributes—or even his own at first—but he turns out to be the best of the Greeks in Miller’s rendering because of his moral sensibilities and his capacity to love. Being best at slaughtering Trojans does not define Miller’s Aristos Achaion, “Best of the Greeks,” although that is how the phrase is understood among Achilles’s fellow warriors. Achilles, for all the intensity of his love for Patroclus, is deficient in these gentler virtues because he cannot connect to anyone but Patroclus. The direness of Achilles’s sorrow when Patroclus dies appears to spring from this failing. There can be nothing or no one to replace the hole left by this loss. Miller has a unique solution, arising from this crippled nature of Achilles in the area of love, to two questions the Iliad asks: why Achilles allows Agamemnon to take Briseis away without a fight and why he chooses to stay out of the fight even while so many of his fellow Greeks die as a result. Her answers provide a surprising moment. I won’t spoil the shock by revealing it, but it will grab you whether the Iliad’s an old friend or you’ve never read it. Suffice to say, Patroclus does not share this crippling, narrowed focus of love, and this lifts him into Miller’s new definition of the best hero. Miller has made a superb offering in the tradition of redefining the Homeric hero. It’s an old project dating back to the Iliad itself. Achilles says in Book Nine (in Lombardo’s translation), “It doesn’t matter if you stay in camp or fight—In the end, everybody comes out the same. Coward and hero get the same reward: You die whether you slack off or work. And what do I have for all my suffering?” His comrades on the field beg to differ. They are quite sure fighting for loot and glory is well worth the suffering—the Mycenaean definition of a hero. I am fascinated by Miller’s reinterpretation of Achilles and Patroclus and the Homeric tradition. She tells an engaging, emotionally gripping tale. Miller, who is clearly knowledgeable about Greek history and archaeology, has chosen to float the tale in a mythological world much as the Homeric tradition did, with heroic details of armor and ship, but not much detail of daily life as it occurred in that place and time as we have recently reconstructed it. The Song of Achilles has vivid descriptions. Chiron’s cave, for instance: “In front of us was a cave. But to call it that is to demean it, for it was not made of dark stone, but pale rose quartz.” This is a magical place, and we enter it, as the two young men do, with wonder and awe. And of course Miller builds Troy for her readers. “Back in the main camp, we stood on the hill that marked the boundary between sand and grass, and regarded the thing we had come for. Troy. It was separated from us by a flat expanse of grass and framed by two wide, lazy rivers. Even so far away, its stone walls caught the sharp sun and gleamed. We fancied we could see the metallic glint of the famous Scaean gate, its brazen hinges said to be tall as a man. Later, I would see those walls up close, their sharp squared stones perfectly cut and fitted against each other, the work of the god Apollo, it was said. And I would wonder at them—at how, ever, the city could be taken.” These descriptions paint brilliant images—Miller’s especially good at her descriptions of nature—but they are more mythological than archaeological. The Song of Achilles takes the reader on a thoroughly enjoyable voyage into the legendary world of these heroes. For an interview with Madeline Miller about The Song of Achilles click here.
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  • Arah-Lynda
    January 1, 1970
    This feeling was different. I found myself grinning until my cheeks hurt, my scalp prickling till I thought it might lift off my head. My tongue ran away from me, giddy with freedom. This and this and this, I said to him. I did not have to fear that I spoke too much. I did not have to worry that I was too slender or too slow. This and this and this! I taught him how to skip stones, and he taught me how to carve wood. I could feel every nerve in my body, every brush of air against my skin.Do you This feeling was different. I found myself grinning until my cheeks hurt, my scalp prickling till I thought it might lift off my head. My tongue ran away from me, giddy with freedom. This and this and this, I said to him. I did not have to fear that I spoke too much. I did not have to worry that I was too slender or too slow. This and this and this! I taught him how to skip stones, and he taught me how to carve wood. I could feel every nerve in my body, every brush of air against my skin.Do you remember that feeling of being in love? How you can be in a room full of others and just know, without even turning to see, that he has entered. You can feel his gaze at it lands upon you across that crowded space. Or the warmth that spreads slowly from within, and builds gradually but surely in intensity, until your entire being is aflame, lit it would seem by the merest whisper of his skin upon your arm. His hand perhaps as it grazes your elbow or his scent as he leans in to speak to those around you. How your body reacts independent of intention, turning toward him, unfurling as a flower does for the sun. In short The Song of Achilles is a modern retelling of The Iliad. Miller tells this tale from the perspective of Patroclus, son of Menoetius. Patroclus at the tender age of ten is exiled from his father’s kingdom for accidently killing the son of a nobleman and is fostered out to King Pelius of Phthia. It is there that he meets Pelius’s golden haired son, the prince Achilles. Soon thereafter Achilles chooses Patroclus as his companion and they become fast friends spending their childhood growing and basking in each others company. Achilles mother, the sea-nymph Thetus, however, does not like Patroclus, feeling he is unworthy of being the friend of a future god. To separate the two after having seen them in an intimate embrace, Thetis sends her son away to be taught further by Chiron, the centaur on Mount Pelion. But unable to cope with the loss of his best friend, Patroclus soon follows, joining Achilles on Mount Pelion where they spend many idyllic seasons together, as their friendship blossoms into something more, being taught about war, medicine and survival by Chiron. But this too will pass as all good things must. Achilles is summoned back to Phthia where he learns that war is imminent against Troy. Oh my goodness this book is so beautiful, so tender, yet strong and passionate. It has me all a tingle, quivering in recollection of the words read, anxious to start all over and experience those feelings anew, read those glorious words once again. Yes it is about war and death, gore and blood, lust and gods and betrayal. There is rape and plunder, hubris and humility, but at its heart, this is a love story and Miller tells it to us in words that leave me breathless, my knees shaking, thirsting for more. Just listen……… “I will go,” he said. “I will go to Troy.” The rosy gleam of his lip, the fevered green of his eyes. There was not a line anywhere on his face, nothing creased or graying; all crisp. He was spring, golden and bright. Envious death would drink his blood, and grow young again.He was watching me, his eyes as deep as earth.“Will you come with me?” he asked.The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death. “Yes,” I whipsered. “Yes.”Relief broke in his face, and he reached for me. I let him hold me, let him press us length to length so close that nothing might fit between us.Tears came, and fell. Above us, the constellations spun and the moon paced her weary course. We lay stricken and sleepless as the hours passed.”Please read it.Five furiously quivering, phenomenal stars!!!!!
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    We despise spoilers. We avoid them at all costs, cover them with spoiler tags, and castigate those who share them. But a great book is one that we can appreciate even when we already know the ending. That's how it was with The Song of Achilles: I knew the fates of the characters beforehand, but no matter how much I tried to brace myself, the last few chapters still broke my heart in the best possible way.What had Deidameia thought would happen, I wondered, when she had her women dance for me? Ha We despise spoilers. We avoid them at all costs, cover them with spoiler tags, and castigate those who share them. But a great book is one that we can appreciate even when we already know the ending. That's how it was with The Song of Achilles: I knew the fates of the characters beforehand, but no matter how much I tried to brace myself, the last few chapters still broke my heart in the best possible way.What had Deidameia thought would happen, I wondered, when she had her women dance for me? Had she really thought I would not know him? I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.Madeline Miller retells the Trojan War through Patroclus's point of view. The book begins with his childhood, and it captures almost all of his life. Miller takes us from his exile from his own land to when he meets Achilles, to their gradual and growing friendship, to when they embark on the war together. She incorporates various historical qualities and characters such as the battle strategies of the time period and Thetis's difficult relationship with her own son. The Song of Achilles will please those searching for a retelling of the Iliad as well as those who want a fresh take on Patroclus and Achille's relationship.Can we all take a collective moment to appreciate the beautiful bond between Patroclus and Achilles? Their relationship developed in the most sincere, realistic, and wonderful way. Miller did not bypass the societal standards of the Trojan War period, rather, she used them to strengthen an already solid friendship. The best and worst part was that I knew how it was going to end - heck, anyone who has learned about the Trojan War or Achilles knows - but my prior knowledge could not stop the waterfall of tears that flooded my face upon the book's conclusion. Patroclus's kind heart, Achille's gumption and glory, and the prophecy that hung over them captured me and held my heart captive. Instead of releasing my emotions at the end, Miller tore them apart, and I enjoyed every second of it.The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death. "Yes," I whispered. "Yes."Miller's writing transported me. It took her ten years to write this and the effort she put into her research shows; the development of Patroclus and Achilles and all of the different events in the story exemplifies her passion for classics. Achilles, Patroclus, and even side characters like Thetis and Briseis received human qualities that allowed them to remain true to their portrayals in history while making them easier to relate to at the same time. Achilles and Patroclus's relationship won me over and made me cry, but this book succeeds in several other areas as well, like its description of settings and battles.Highly recommended for history/classic buffs or anyone searching for a story with a romance that will leave you breathless. It left me sobbing and gasping for breath at 8 AM in the main lobby of my college dorm, and I am confident it will evoke a similar reaction in other readers who come across it.*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice
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  • Raeleen Lemay
    January 1, 1970
    *2.5*DON'T HATE ME. I know I'm in the minority here, but this book really wasn't my jam. I think when it comes to ancient history and mythology like this, I prefer to see it rather than read it. I found the plot to be way too dry and dull, at least for the last 2/3 of the book. I really enjoyed the beginning! I loved reading about the childhood years of the boys, and their friendship and romance that blossomed. Oddly enough, I was hoping there would be MORE romance, and I feel like it was lost a *2.5*DON'T HATE ME. I know I'm in the minority here, but this book really wasn't my jam. I think when it comes to ancient history and mythology like this, I prefer to see it rather than read it. I found the plot to be way too dry and dull, at least for the last 2/3 of the book. I really enjoyed the beginning! I loved reading about the childhood years of the boys, and their friendship and romance that blossomed. Oddly enough, I was hoping there would be MORE romance, and I feel like it was lost along the way, right alongside my interest.
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  • Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net
    January 1, 1970
    See this review and more at www.bookbastion.net!"I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world."Stunning. Wonderfully written and absolutely transcendent. Madeline Miller managed to transform the essentials of the story of Achilles into a fresh and heart-wrenching examination of love, pride and vanity that does great honor to the mythology that inspired this wor See this review and more at www.bookbastion.net!"I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world."Stunning. Wonderfully written and absolutely transcendent. Madeline Miller managed to transform the essentials of the story of Achilles into a fresh and heart-wrenching examination of love, pride and vanity that does great honor to the mythology that inspired this work of fiction. You can feel the love and time that Miller poured into this herculean effort to tell a different side of Achilles' story that is oft overlooked by his greater legend as a warrior. This is not a story about his feats of bravery and strength which are so focused on, but rather Miller seeks to ground the character's humanity in a greater story of love, and what it makes of all men. While the exact nature of Achilles and Patroclus' relationship has been long debated, Miller expands upon the Classical theory that a hidden romance between the two warriors in order to paint Achilles in the most mortal light I think I've ever seen his character shown in. “This, I say. This and this. The way his hair looked in summer sun. His face when he ran. His eyes, solemn as an owl at lessons. This and this and this. So many moments of happiness, crowding forward.” Unflinching in her examination of the highly debated nature of their relationship, Achilles and Patroclus' connection as lovers rang so truthful to me, as a gay men. I saw a lot of myself and my own experiences reflected in these characters doubts and fears; in their hopes and love for one another. I have to commend the author for her ability to so accurately capture the experiences involved in a romance between two men. It was painful and beautiful and always hit close to home.At times it was devastating and frustrating to watch these two characters tossed and pulled apart by their society's wavering acceptance of who they were to one another. Miller uses the contested nature of their relationship in our world today to her advantage, highlighting the beauty of their love within the struggle to retain acceptance among their peers. It's done to great effect, serving to develop both men with the very same hopes and fears felt by LGBTQIA individuals across the world today. The prose deserves its own applause. Miller's command of language and description made me an instant fan of her as an author. It's flowery without becoming purple prose, and it always served to re-center the romance between Achilles and Patroclus as the central and most beautiful/hopeful aspect of the dangerous world that they lived in. It's a trifle slower than one might expect upon starting, but only because this story does not live within Achilles status as a warrior. Its heart lies within the quieter moments between the characters, and their love for one another. I give it 4.5 stars only because I had a bit of trouble at the beginning of the book - keeping all of the names and places straight in my head. By chapter 4 or so I had oriented myself though and found myself really enjoying the story. Also, Achilles and his hubris really did kill me at times, but in keeping with his traditional role in mythology, his mentality is understandable. It's painful and difficult to read at times, but always romantic and always beautiful. A new favorite for my bookshelf! 4.5 out of 5 stars!
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  • Brian Yahn
    January 1, 1970
    It's pretty hard to mess up The Iliad, and Madeline Miller's magical narration and unique perspective definitely don't. She manages to tell the tale from angles never before seen and put a fresh spin on one of the best known stories of all time. On top of being mostly accurate, what Madeline Miller does especially well is make this story accessible to anyone. A lot of the sybolisms that make The Iliad great are easy to miss, but in this version, that's not the case. And the way she structures se It's pretty hard to mess up The Iliad, and Madeline Miller's magical narration and unique perspective definitely don't. She manages to tell the tale from angles never before seen and put a fresh spin on one of the best known stories of all time. On top of being mostly accurate, what Madeline Miller does especially well is make this story accessible to anyone. A lot of the sybolisms that make The Iliad great are easy to miss, but in this version, that's not the case. And the way she structures sentences, and the words she chooses, the way she has her characters speak--everything about it has this transportive property to it, that takes you back 3000 years to classical Greece.But it's not without the flaws of a 3000 year-old story. Like the voyage from Mycenae to Anatolia, the start is rough but well worth it for the epic ending. The way Madeline Miller closes this tale is ESPECIALLY brilliant. It makes it clear why The Iliad might be best told from the eyes of Achilles and Patroclus. There's a relationship between these two characters, particularly Achilles' pride and how Patroclus handles it, that is so ingrained in this epic, it seems strange that the story hasn't been told from this perspective before.The problem, though, with this version is that, from the way Patroclus is portrayed, it's hard to see what draws Achilles to him until the end. He's seemingly just an uncoordinated hot messy accidental murderer, until out of left field he becomes the forgotten hero of the Trojan War, the true Aristos Achaion. There's not much growth for Patroclus: where one second he is a buffoon, the next he simply is not. Until that switch, for about 95% of the story, the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles that holds this tale together seems wildly unrealistic--the worst kind of InstaLove, the kind without reason.On top of that, the MOST important part of the story--the battle between Achilles and Hector--falls short. Since the perspective comes from Achilles/Patroclus, it leaves out some majorly important characters: Helen and Hector and Priam and Paris. To me, that side of the story is necessary for The Iliad to have all its deserved glory.All that said, experiencing the story from this angle was truly unique and awesome, and I'm so glad that I did.
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  • Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen)
    January 1, 1970
    4 Stars "He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.” Honestly? I've never read the Iliad. I've never seen Troy. (I barely made it through The Odyssey in high school, okay?) So I had no idea what was going to happen, and had only two expectations:It'd be beautiful ✔It'd break my heart ✔Starting during their childhood, the book revolves around Patroclus, as he befriends Achilles, who is fated to be the greatest fighter 4 Stars "He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.” Honestly? I've never read the Iliad. I've never seen Troy. (I barely made it through The Odyssey in high school, okay?) So I had no idea what was going to happen, and had only two expectations:It'd be beautiful ✔️It'd break my heart ✔️Starting during their childhood, the book revolves around Patroclus, as he befriends Achilles, who is fated to be the greatest fighter of all time. Telling the story from the 'side-character's perspective was a brilliant choice. Not only was our protagonist relatable, but as Patroclus slowly learns more about Achilles, so do we. As fame comes and both characters develop, we can see Patroclus' change merely in the way he reacts to Achilles' change.This is most prominent in the third-act, when Patroclus stops defining himself solely through Achilles. I'm not typically a fan of the "I-can't-live-without-you" romances. And I'm not a fan of romances where one character follows the other aimlessly and thinks only in terms of their relationship. Both of these feel co-dependent and unhealthy, and both of which were behavior exhibited by Patroclus for the first two-thirds of the story. But then, as the war rages on, Patroclus makes his own friends, develops his own goals and decides what he'll fight for. This character development elevated the story to another levelAgain, I haven't read the original. I'm sure if I had, more puzzle pieces would fit together, but right now, parts of this were confusing. What does Achilles' mother want? Why does she hide him sometimes and push him towards limelight others? What was Patroclus' relationship with Achilles' baby-mama about? Why was Achilles dressed as a woman that one scene? ...I have a lot of questions.The ending was a beautiful gut-punch, and I fully expected to cry... but I didn't? I wish the climax had a few more pages so I had time to process what was happening before it was over. Really written beautifully, as is, and made my chest ache. Overall A mythological re-telling with an ethereal quality stitched in, even as the final act punches you with well-executed character development and emotions First buddy read with Lucie!
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  • Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
    January 1, 1970
    ► Ô, Patroclus, what did you do to me? After having hesitated for a long time, I decided to give 4 stars to The Song of Achilles, no matter how flawed I thought it was. The reason for this is that I know that this book will linger, and that I treasure this kind of feelings above everything. This being said, it does not mean that I'm able to overlook what annoyed me, and I will try to give it the fairest review possible - if such thing really exists, which I doubt. Look, I'm not going to argue ov ► Ô, Patroclus, what did you do to me? After having hesitated for a long time, I decided to give 4 stars to The Song of Achilles, no matter how flawed I thought it was. The reason for this is that I know that this book will linger, and that I treasure this kind of feelings above everything. This being said, it does not mean that I'm able to overlook what annoyed me, and I will try to give it the fairest review possible - if such thing really exists, which I doubt. Look, I'm not going to argue over details and trying to decipher if Madeline Miller stays true to the original(s) because for me there is no such thing as a perfect retelling, but I'll say this : she manages to mix the greatest events of the Iliad with crediting other opinions, as Eschyle's, and fills in the blanks, creating this way a believable and captivating story with them. What more would we ask for? If reading this book can convince people to have a look at classics, I'd say that The Song of Achilles is without any doubt a success, and I immensely enjoyed every one of the references.Madeline Miller's writing, if not exempt of purple prose sometimes (I'll come back to that), stays compelling and flows smoothly, capturing these Great characters in a simple light that I found really enjoyable. One might say that most of the story is rather dull, and I sure cannot disagree with them. Yet even if I wanted more, I do understand the path Miller chose : this is not the story of great battles and honors. This is the story of the men behind them. Stripped of the sparkling lights of fame, they remain flawed men whose lives also know their fair share of boredom and everyday events. Oh, and they made me laugh, too. I swear! Along the way The Song of Achilles brings an interesting thinking about what it means to be famous and the dangers of losing who we are to fulfill our pride's needs. In that, she nails her subject in my opinion, as well as the evolution of Patroclus' love for Achilles. See, if you take an unflinching look at all these Greek Heroes and Gods, they've really nothing to be proud of, to be honest. Parricides. Fratricides. Rapists. Liars. Self-absorbed. Mad. So very stupid, really. I loved that she didn't try to make us love them but offered some pieces of understanding - yes, I'm talking about Achilles. "Who was he if not miraculous and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?" Unfortunately the pacing was uneven and the second half didn't work for me as much as the beginning. Bored, I grew restless, my inner devil urging me to skim (I didn't), especially between 60 and 75%. The ending makes it worth it, though. I'm not one for changing my rating because of the way a book ends but I can't deny that the way Madeline Miller splendidly wrapped her plot impressed me so much that I know it influenced my rating a little. "This feeling was different. I found myself grinning until my cheeks hurt, my scalp prickling till I thought it might lift off my head. My tongue ran away from me, giddy with freedom. This and this and this, I said to him. I did not have to fear that I spoke too much. I did not have to worry that I was too slender or too slow. This and this and this!" I know that many readers didn't like that aspect, but one of my favorite part was the romance, especially because it was flawed. Beware, the first half is mostly focused on Patroclus and Achilles' growing relationship, so if you can't stand romance it could be hard to handle (just thought I'd warn you :P)In my opinion the way Patroclus went from a blind - and, really, obsessed - love for Achilles to the lucid acceptation of his flaws was wonderfully handled. It didn't start promisingly, though. I mean, in the beginning Patroclus worships Achilles way too much, nurtures some weird fixation on his feet (I swear! He can't stop mentioning them!) and can't keep his mouth shut about how fucking beautiful Achilles is. So as a reviewer the only thing I can say is - it is there. If you're put off by somewhat unrealistic and purple descriptions of love from a young teenager it will upset you. But as a reviewer I must also say that for someone who can't stand purple prose 9 times out of 10, I still loved it, because I understood Patroclus need to be accepted and how he transferred it to his princely companion. Not to mention that his love evolves along with him, and more we progress through the story, more it appears that his puppy love morphs into something way more mature and realistic. "I know, now, how I would answer Chiron. I would say : there is no answer. Whichever you choose, you are wrong." But let's talk about Patroclus, okay? I adored him and the way his character grew through the story. From a shy and rejected child to a fierce and compassionate man, he is complex and cannot be limited to his relationship with Achilles. Loyal, he's still able to see the mistakes his lover does and always tries his best to find the best way to handle things. He's not perfect, but really, nobody is, and that's for the best. In a world where warriors are put on pedestals, how to survive when you prefer healing than killing? He made me care so, so much. "My stomach feels burned to cinders; my palms ache where my nails have cut into them. I do not know this man, I think. He is no one I have ever seen before" My feelings towards Achilles are way more complicated, but I don't think we're meant to love him. See, I always pictured Achilles as this bragging proud hulk - and there are hints of this part of him still, yes. But there's more. He doesn't know how to be himself in a different way, and if his young self is pretty likeable, he grows more and more indifferent to everything but Patroclus and himself. His conscience seems to go MIA several times and I sure can't forgive some of the decisions he took (especially toward women), but again, I'm not supposed to. "He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature." Yet his love for Patroclus was so big, I couldn't help but feel, if not sorry, but sad for him and for the path his life took. However, I never fully connected with him and I regret that his character wasn't as true-to-life than Patroclus, especially as an adult (I really liked his teen self full of mischief, though). If I'm being honest, at first I had a hard time understanding why Patroclus loved him so much - except because he was handsome and skilled, it goes without saying. But as I stated earlier, I genuinely think that Achilles fulfilled Patroclus fierce need to be accepted, to be taken care of - and I can't argue with that. As for the other characters, I applaud Madeline Miller for making them feel so real, even if I would have wanted better roles for the women, who either stay overshadowed and grandly mistreated and abused (I know that this world was harsh and unforgiving towards women, but still, I was furious) or are pictured as greedy bitches. They are the big absent of this story, and that's a shame - but this is the case in the original(s), therefore I'm not sure I can hold a grudge against Miller for this. I did appreciate how Patroclus tried to make things better in the end, even if it wasn't enough. A special award for Chiron - God, this sarcastic Centaur is perhaps my favorite character in the whole book. Well, except Patroclus. "He paused. "You have been taught to ride, I suppose?"We nodded, quickly."That is unfortunate. Forget what you learned. I do not like to be quizzed by legs or tugged at." ► To sum-up, if you have an interest in Greek Mythology and don't shy away from romance, I think you should give this book a chance. This book made me feel so much. This book made me cry and laugh. I can't wait to hear your thoughts. For more of my reviews, please visit:
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  • Ken
    January 1, 1970
    I'm conflicted here, and 3-stars is my go-to rating when faced with conflict. How ironic, then, that this would be a book about one of the greatest conflicts of all time: Greece v. Troy. Too bad it only sort of is, though. About Troy, I mean. What this book really is about is a relationship: Achilles and Patroclus'. Playing that card means that the characterization had better be all aces. Jacks, it turns out.I could have easily 4-starred the book for its writing. Miller has a way with the word a I'm conflicted here, and 3-stars is my go-to rating when faced with conflict. How ironic, then, that this would be a book about one of the greatest conflicts of all time: Greece v. Troy. Too bad it only sort of is, though. About Troy, I mean. What this book really is about is a relationship: Achilles and Patroclus'. Playing that card means that the characterization had better be all aces. Jacks, it turns out.I could have easily 4-starred the book for its writing. Miller has a way with the word and uses imagery and figurative language in a classic (yet modern) style. I should mention that word "modern" more often in this review. This is not some stodgy read favored by readers steeped in the ancient classics. In fact, its narrative reads like a modern novel, even if the trappings are all ancient. In that sense, believe the hype: Miller breathes new life into old classic! News at 11.As for the face that launched a thousand ships, we never see it. And the bloody battles around Troy? Well, it takes a long time to get there. In that sense, the book is very UNmodern -- and unwise -- in its approach. Miller's strategy is to focus more on Achilles through Patroclus' adoring-ain't-the-word-for-it eyes. This can get old. Older than this myth, even, until you CRAVE the myth and cry out, "In the name of Zeus, get us to Troy by p. 100 and let her rip for a couple of hundred pages! Bring Ajax and Odysseus and Agamemnon and Paris and Priam and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice more to life!"But no. Miller's still in Achilles' tent, fascinated with Achilles' relationship. Which is not to say that this gambit couldn't have worked. It could have. But somehow the characterization does not save the day. Neither Achilles nor Patroclus is terribly compelling or sympathetic. With over-exposure, they even risk being annoying at times.Students of the classics, of the Trojan War, and of convention, then, risk disappointment here. If, on the other hand, you're into alternate retellings of history and/or just want to luxuriate in Miller's writing, read the ample number of 5-star reviews here, pay no attention to that curmudgeon behind the curtain, and go for it.
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  • joanna ☽
    January 1, 1970
    update: I have a lot of feelings, so I made memes and posted them here This, I say. This and this. The way his hair looked in the summer sun. His face when he ran. His eyes, solemn as an owl at lessons. This and this and this. So many moments of happiness, crowding forward. Whoever said that reading is good for you is a liar and very untrustworthy, because I feel like I'm not okay at all. This book hurt me, a lot, and I have plenty of things to say about it. Shoutout to everyone who told me read update: I have a lot of feelings, so I made memes and posted them here This, I say. This and this. The way his hair looked in the summer sun. His face when he ran. His eyes, solemn as an owl at lessons. This and this and this. So many moments of happiness, crowding forward. Whoever said that reading is good for you is a liar and very untrustworthy, because I feel like I'm not okay at all. This book hurt me, a lot, and I have plenty of things to say about it. Shoutout to everyone who told me reading this was a good idea, because you're all evil in the best way possibleThe Song of Achilles is a book that you've undoubtedly heard of if you're familiar with the YA book community. it's especially popular on tumblr, where you see about 29472869 gorgeous edits and quotes daily. it's honestly a surprise that i haven't picked it up before now. what is this book about?this book is essentially a retelling of The Iliad by Homer. it's told from patroclus' point of view, and focuses on the relationship (read: romance) between him and achilles, the "best of the greeks", a half-god warrior (who also happens to be really, really hot, and this fact doesn't escape patroclus' notice.) personally, i had no clue what actually happens in the iliad (i'm sorry that i haven't found the time to read epic ancient greek poetry, but i'll get there someday) - and this meant that i didn't know what was coming, which in turn meant i was wholly unprepared. the positives — ▸ the writing is so good. madeline miller's writing is short and sweet, yet evocative and eloquent. the wording is gorgeous, highly quotable, and honestly just a pleasure to read. it fits perfectly with the story and enriches it so much. The word I use is hubris. Our word for arrogance that scrapes the stars, for violence and towering rage as ugly as the gods. — ▸ the romance is slow-burn and beautifully sweet. it was totally believable and utterly heart-wrenching to read, in the best way possible. He is half of my soul, as the poets say. in fact, it was outright wonderful. The representation in this is amazing. too often, gay characters are shunted to the side, made into flat characters and stuck in there solely for diversity points. this book doesn't do that. kudos to madeline for writing in this element. — ▸ greek mythology. i'll be the first person to admit i know nothing about it beyond what i picked up from Rick Riordan books - but it is incredibly interesting to read about; you can see why people have preserved this story for thousands of years.— ▸ the characterisation was stunning. miller takes on the difficult task of taking already-famed heroes and characters, legends in their own right, and making them human. mythological figures often seem distant, cold, far removed from us - but through her eyes and pen, we are presented with a staggeringly real portrait of humanity. the characters all have flaws and desires and secrets, and the level of care put into their construction really does shine through.— ▸ it makes me emotional. this book is capable of taking your heart, ripping it in two, and then saying oh, you needed this?— ▸ although it's set in ancient greece, where sexism prevails above all else, we still manage to have strong female characters. while not the best, i loved that the author still wrote powerful, fierce females; thetis has some of my favourite descriptions in the entire book: Her mouth was a gash of red, like the torn-open stomach of a sacrifice, bloody and oracular. Behind it her teeth shone sharp and white as bone.-"She is his mother." She is a goddess first, I thought. why didn't i rate it 5 stars? — ▸ i'm not sure if i'm allowed to critique the plot, because it's literally a classic that's lasted thousands of years, but the ending was easy to predict. i guess i can't really consider it a negative, but it was. consider this an ambiguous point rather than negative.— ▸ it was a little slow to get through, and the time jumps were a bit odd to adjust to. i think this might just be me as a reader, but the jumping-around of time - combined with the beginning of the book, where we're still being introduced to the world and drowned in a sea of greek names - disoriented me a little. not enough for me to dislike it, but it was a bit annoying. — ▸ the character voices didn't develop as much as i'd like them to. again, a minor issue, but i was expecting patroclus' voice to be a little different after 9 years of living in a war-camp.— ▸ it was a tragedy. i didn't know it was a tragedy and i was Not Prepared because i thought i was gonna read a happy romance and it turns into the equivalent of "hey everyone you love is dying!" but again this isn't a negative this is just me being sad :(overall, this was a really excellent book that took an old tale and made it into something glorious and fresh. i'll definitely be picking up some more of madeline miller's work in the future - especially since the cover for circe is so beautiful....▌Instagram ▌Tumblr ▌Wordpress Blog ▌The Song of Achilles in quotes and kermit; "Patroclus. I have given enough to them. I will not give them this."-"A thousand ships have sailed for her."-"I could not even see the ugliness of the deaths anymore, the brains, the shattered bones that later I would wash from my skin and hair. All I saw was his beauty, his singing limbs, the quick flickering of his feet." if you have time, check out my blog post on the best ways to read this?
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