The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published: September 20, 2011
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology/Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
This book broke my heart and then put it back together a million times over. This story was more description than dialogue yet I completely fell in love with it. The tale of Patroclus and Achilles is one of strength and love it was captivating and beautifully written. I am incredibly shocked this was Madeline Miller’s first novel because everything about it was vivid and passionate. I was transported back to Ancient Greek times. The author stated this tale took her 10 years to write and it was well worth it because it paid off. Her descriptions of places, people, things, and romance were lovely.
“His skin was the color of just-pressed olive oil, and smooth as polished wood, without the scabs and blemishes that covered the rest of us.”
I loved how real the characters felt. The guilt, loneliness, growth, pride, etc were real human emotions that we all face. The romance aspect was literally swoon worthy. In a story about war, a mother who hates your companion, evilness in society, and more it’s easy to use romance as a cop out to explain all of that. Miller does the exact opposite. She blends the romance into the story seamlessly. The war scenes were done so well and as I stated I really felt as if I was there fighting with the men. I love this story so much it made me laugh, scream with anger, cry A LOT (I really needed my tissues), and grip my book in anticipation. It will be a story that stays with me forever.
“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.”
1) The Characters & Their Growth
I loved Patroclus as a character A LOT. Miller didn’t write him as a typical masculine character that we normally read. He was timid. He had trouble defending himself in the beginning of the story. His crap father always made him feel like a disappointment so, when he was exiled I was honestly just happy he was away from the ass. Because honestly, what type of father exiles their own son???? Anyway, I loved how he was bolder than he thought like when he snapped at Achilles to speak to his father about him not being in lessons. Also, he made the first move (THAT’S MY SONNNNNNN). He learned to fight for the people he loved and by the end, he had become brave, bold, and smart. I knew the ending was coming but I still wasn’t prepared but, seeing my little Patroclus command an army like that and do what he did *CUE THE TEARS*. I really just loved how his character was written. He didn’t hide his fear or the fact that he wasn’t skilled in combat. Plus the end when he has the moment with Thetis and he speaks of his love for Achilles I just SWOON.
“Those seconds, half seconds, that the line of our gaze connected, were the only moment in my day that I felt anything at all. The sudden swoop of my stomach, the coursing anger. I was like a fish eyeing the hook.”
Achilles oh Achilles. I truly felt bad for Achilles. Patroclus knew who he was. I felt like Achilles didn’t. He was always torn between his need for glory and his need to be happy. I wanted him to have both but sadly we all know how this ends. I wanted to him to see that he was more than war, like when he said he was born for it. As a Prince, though it was what he needed to do I was so happy he had Patroclus (when he asked him to put on his armor SO SOFT.) He needed Patroclus, he was the calm in his storm. He was his “peace in a life time of war”. In the end, we really saw how much Patroclus was a need in his life like when he said he wished Hector would kill him, how he called him most beloved, ordered his men to bury them together, and when he smiled at his demise.
“Achilles’ eyes lift. They are bloodshot and dead. “I wish he had let you all die.”
2) The Romance
“I listened and did not speak. Achilles’ eyes were bright in the firelight, his face drawn sharply by the flickering shadows. I would know it in dark or disguise, I told myself. I would know it even in madness.”
Patroclus didn’t want to disappoint Achilles & Achilles lied for him and made him his companion in front of his father and in front of all the boys said: “Tonight you’re to sleep in my room.” I really love how well Madeline Miller handled this romance and that she decided to write it because as she said so many articles 100% sidestepped the love between the two. One of my favorite parts was when Achilles said he would be famous & happy because Patroclus was the reason and later in the novel, he said, “Patroclus. I have given enough to them. I will not give them this.” Sigh my heart CAN NOT TAKE IT.
“He is half of my soul, as the poets say. He will be dead soon, and his honor is all that will remain.”
I can’t mention everything so, I will mention pages 49, 70, 84-85, 168, 182 (MY HEART MY LITTLE HEART), 201, 270 (The jealousy that Achilles doesn’t know how to deal with *heart eyes*), 296, 324-325, 326-327, and 369. I am going to give a special shout to page 100-103 because this was the moment I was waiting for and it was done with such care and grace. They deserved everything and more.
“As if he had heard me, he reached for my hand. I did not need to look; his fingers were etched into my memory, slender and petal-veined, strong and quick and never wrong. “Patroclus,” he said. He was always better with words than I.”
3) The Historical Setting (The war) & Mythology
“Our lines went quickly ragged as some outstripped others in their speed, glory-hungry, eager to be the first to kill a real Trojan.”
I am always a huge fan of a story that can take me to its world and The Song of Achilles took me to a time of war and bloodshed. It took me to a place that believed in Greek gods and heroes whose lives rested in the hands of fate. I love Greek mythology and I can tell the author did her research and did it well. I also commend a story that is so rich with history but keeps the reader entertained and doesn’t make me drowsy but kept me alive and gripping my pages in anticipation.
4) The Writing & Dialogue
“The man in it wore a horsehair helmet, and even from a distance, we could see the strong lines of his body…This was a man who moved like the gods were watching; every gesture he made was upright and correct.”
I usually complain about a story that is description heavy rather than dialogue heavy but for The Song of Achilles that really wasn’t an issue. The story was written perfectly in my opinion and sure I would’ve loved to see more talking but, that just added to the specialty of the book. We saw action in the characters rather than just be told what they did and how they were as people. Plus, Patroclus was the perfect POV because the story felt more real seeing it from the POV of someone who was quiet but saw so much.
5) The Pace of the Story
I just want to quickly mention that I really enjoyed the pace of this story. It was slow enough to allow me to devour all the rich details but also fast enough as to not drag certain moments too long. An example would be we read about the boys growing up but it wasn’t like we got every detail of their life and there were age skips.
“After the tenderness had come more passion; we had been slower then, and lingering, a dreamy night that stretched on and on.”
There is no what I didn’t because it was so beautiful. This was a special story that really touched my heart. I loved the characters, romance, setting, historical aspect, and honestly everything. I can’t put into words my full love for this story I just know it meant a lot and I can talk about it forever. What did you think of the story if you read it?