Book Review: The Song of Achilles

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

I first learned about The Song of Achilles from a Bookstagram account (@bookishkarent)

I was in the middle of reading The Iliad for my World Literature class, and as soon as I saw the post, I knew I had to read this book! She did warn "prepare some tissue because it's going to get messy and emotional.

Only now I understand the warning, and so I will tell you now, be prepared to feel heartbroken.

I must say I am glad I read Homer's epic before The Song of Achilles because it allowed me to see Miller's novel with new eyes–Patroclus'.

No warning prepares you for the emotional rollercoaster TSOA is, not even The Iliad, however, The Iliad does show the reason for the heartbreak.

Achilles binding Patroclus wounds.

The Song of Achilles is told through Patroclus POV, if you've read the Illiad, you know he is Achilles' closest friend, but in Miller's novel you get to know his story and his relationship with Achilles. Patroclus is an exiled prince taken by King Peleus of Pythia, Achilles' father.

The first half of the book focuses on the development of Patroclus and Achilles' friendship and relationship. It is the most organic and tender thing.

Achilles is proud and bold; Patroclus is kind and selfless. You can see Miller's effort to make the story as close as it is to the accounts there are of Achilles' and Patroclus' lives.

The second half of the book deals with the Trojan war, and gives a different perspective to it while staying true to the events of The Iliad.

In my opinion, her weaving of history, mythology and fiction is so perfect I can only wish it were true. ALL OF IT.

I believe that reading The Song of Achilles changed my life. Madeline Miller took the little glimpses of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus shown in The Iliad, and she created a world where love was simply love–I cried because we all deserve to love like that feely.

I don't know how to continue without spoilers, both for those who haven't read the Iliad or the Song of Achilles. I can only say that I hope you read them, and do have some tissue when you approach the end, for all the moments of bliss give throughout the book come at a high cost.

Some of my favorite quotes:

What I loved:

• The development of the love story was organic. Patroclus insecurity towards not knowing if Achilles might have feelings for him, the way their first kiss goes terribly wrong, and how after so many years of friendship and companionship they just give in to their love for each other.

• The story contained several nods to the legends about Achilles. His training with Chiron, his disguise as a woman, his role in the sacrifice of Iphigenia, his attachment to Briseis, his relationship with his mother, and closeness to Patroclus. Miller found a way to keep to all and make it work for the story with Patroclus as a witness.

Miller kept most of the events of the Iliad in the book that involved Achilles and Patroclus. Truly, we get to see more of the Trojan war since The Iliad only covers the ninth year. The Iliad begins with Chris's attempt to ransom his daughter Cryseis from Agamemnon, and we get to see this in TSOA at page 272.

There is a happy ending. Miller makes us suffer by not allowing Patroclus to enter Hades and having his soul wander on Earth. In the end, however, it is Thetis who marks Patroclus' name along Achilles' in their shared grave.

What I didn't like:

Thetis is a hateful b***h. I didn't like how she treated Patroclus from the beginning and how she would tell him he wasn't enough for Achilles. Miller makes up for it in the end though.

Patroclus sleeps with Deidameia while she is pregnant with Achilles' child. I know it all comes out as a product of guilt, but WHY?!

Odysseus was so manipulative it made me hate him. I kind of liked him in The Iliad and liked him too in The Odyssey, but I had no love for him in TSOA. Especially because he didn't try hard enough to help Patroclus.

Pyrrhus homophobia almost ruined it all. He was condescending, homophobic, and bloodthirsty. He was raised by Thetis, that's why. I hated that he wanted to erase Patroclus out of Achilles life by not marking his name on the grave that contained their ashes. Anyways, he got what he deserved in the end.

Honestly this book has my heart and I hope this review inspires you to pick it up.

Let me know what you think about it and if you have read it, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please like and share if you enjoyed this review.

Love, Lourdes

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