The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller
Goodreads: See here
YOUNG ADULT / MYTHOLOGY / LBGT ROMANCE
Plot at a Glance:
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 differences, 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’s 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.
“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!
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟= 4.5/5 stars
What did you think of this book? Tell me you loved it like I did! Give me some other LGBT reads!