If you’re like me and never cry with books, I will tell you now there’s a first time for everything.
Set in the Age of Heroes, The Song of Achilles re-tells the story of one of the most famous names of the time, Achilles, told in the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’ best friend and lover. As a young prince, Patroclus is exiled to the court of King Peleus, where he trains and studies with prince Achilles. Despite being completely different, their friendship grows through the years until it develops into something deeper. The kidnapping of Helen of Sparta sets in motion a series of events that test the lovers in ways they never expect and will change their lives forever.
I must begin by saying I felt a lot, too much and intensely the story of Achilles and Patroclus. If you read or know the outlines of Homer’s Iliad, you will remember that the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Even so, Madeline Miller, while staying true to Homer’s work and the known Greek myths, created a masterpiece that traces perfectly the evolution of a young friendship into a soul-binding romance. She gives depth to the characters, creating the perfect and solid backstory of Patroclus and creating a more human image of the demi-god Achilles.
The style of writing is lyrical and Homer would be proud to read it. Miller writes elegantly yet simply. You flow through the story from beginning to end without missing a single detail. As you read, you have the feeling you hear a harp and a soft voice narrating the novel. The descriptions give colour and detail to Ancient Greece from its palaces to its wars. Miller doesn’t forget the historical details either. They’re perfectly mixed with the fictional story; the typical traits and societal behaviours during the Trajan War period they strengthen it the story and make it more real.
The characters, as I mentioned before, are close to perfection. Achilles, the hero known for his brutal nature and arrogance, is presented in a completely different way. Yes, he’s a spoiled brat, in the beginning, not forgetting his royal heritage and situation, but he grows up to be a man divided between his heart and his duty. Yes, he’s ruthless and hot-headed, but at the time, he’s gentle and it’s clear in his actions that he truly cares. Patroclus is the complete opposite of Achilles. He’s far from being a war machine like it was fully expected at the time, to be someone that cares deeply about others and manages to put others before himself. He thinks with the heart and together with his innocence, he manages to catch the attention of Achilles from the very beginning. On the other hand, his need to end the suffering of the people and to protect them becomes his downfall. His relationship with the demi-god is perfectly developed and the way they grow together both physically and emotionally grows on you from the beginning to the end.
A masterful work of art that will stay in my heart for a long time. This novel book sheds a new light on the famous story of Achilles, and the many layers of the story will surprise you and mark you. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough.