Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Hello and Welcome back! I took a break after doing my twelve days of Xmas to let myself settle back into my life in Montreal, sort out all my new activities, and most importantly read some more books! I’ve only managed to read two books since coming back but man have they given me something to talk about! First up, The Song of Achilles. WARNING! This review will contain SPOILERS!

Of course, OF COURSE, you know that I’m going to read this book and be super critical of how closely it aligns with the actual myth (shout out to my obsession with paganism!). Anyways, I was super pleased with how accurate it actually was. The only thing I think was kind of glossed over was the fact that Achilles and Patroclus were not the same age in the myth, with Patroclus being older by a few years, but in the book were the same age. This was literally one of the only deviance from actual myth that I found (allowing for the speech and relationships because like who can really know what happened).

My list of pros goes on and on for this book. First off, I would like to personally thank Ms Miller for doing the right thing and writing Achilles and Patroclus as the gay men they obviously were. I know what you might be saying; “Monika, we don’t know what happened, they could have just been good friends” and to that I say: the Greeks were gay as fuck, and if anyone could look at how Achilles and Patroclus treated each other and say that was “just friendship” then there’s no hope for the gay community at all. Achilles and Patroclus were gay and deserve to be acknowledged as gay icons. Miller treated their love so respectfully and tenderly, and I would really like to thank her for that.

In addition, I love how she treated love in general. We got to see so many different forms of it, not only the romantic love between Achilles and Patroclus, but also the love between Peleus and Achilles, or Chiron and Patroclus, where there is such a lovely father-son relationship. Thetis and Achilles’ mother-son relationship is strained, and yet you can tell that they both respect each other, and that Thetis wants what is best for her son. And then the love between Patroclus and Briseis is so tragic, but also so heart warming, to see that even though there could never be anything romantic or more than friendship between them, that didn’t stop them from caring a huge amount for each other.

Other aspects of this book that I adored was the amount of reconciliation. While it may not have been a full reconciliation, the scene with Priam and Achilles was very touching. Hector’s death was so tragic because even though we know that it’s coming, you can’t help but grieve for a man who is (canonically in myth) a very loving husband, son, and someone who fought very hard for his city. So we know Hector dies and Achilles desecrates the corpse. But when Priam comes to beg the return of his son, Achilles apologizes, and we see that even in his grief he recognizes his error. I think that was a nice touch to add, and I loved that Achilles was concerned about Priam’s safety and such. It was like a return to “he has done nothing to me”. Another pseudo reconciliation that I loved was between Thetis and Patroclus. Even though he had done nothing but love her son, she blamed him for many things and always saw him as undeserving of Achilles. But there’s one scene where they share their memories of him, and how they loved him, and its so touching to see them semi bond over the boy they both loved. I also loved that after this Thetis, in her own way, approved of their love, and allowed Patroclus to join Achilles.

Now, my cons with this book are few and far between. Pyrrhus was annoying as hell, but I think that was meant to contrast with his father Achilles, and to show how by being raised by his father Achilles was able to learn compassion and love, while Pyrrhus was raised by Thetis and grew up cold and unfeeling. I would have also loved to have more scenes with Hector in him. I think he got a little bit played in the book because hes such a major player in the Trojan War and yet we only get glimpses of him up until his death scene, where I think he has one line. Just a shot intro to who he was, or even a paragraph more about how he was a good man, would have made me happier. And my biggest peeve about this novel was that we only got a one line reunion between Patroclus and Achilles. I wanted a chapter! I wanted a sequel! I want a whole series of books about Patroclus and Achilles living it up in the after life, getting to hang out with all their friends and just be in love without the looming threat of Achilles’ death. I want them to be HAPPY!

That being sad, while I have heard that this book is really sad and tragic, I disagree. Dont get me wrong, I’m sad that they die, but that is the myth/history of this story, and Miller couldn’t very well change a central point in the myth if she was to keep it a retelling. This way, the original myth is much more accessible to the broader public, and also gives our heros a happy ending – they reunite in Hades and honestly, I don’t know what could have been happier.

I am overall so pleased with her book. Ms Miller, if you are reading this, please send me Circe, I am already in pieces over it!
To everyone else reading this, I hope your weekend went well, and I’ll see you next week!

Peace out ducks!

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