Most of my reviews this year have been non-fiction as I’ve been focusing a lot of increasing my understanding and knowledge base. However, half way through the year, I hit a wall. I couldn’t do anymore non-fiction, but I wanted to keep trying. Basically, that resulted in me not reading for two months.
Last weekend, I finally moved past it and was able to pick up a novel.
The Song of Achilles has been sitting on my book shelf since early this year, collecting dust. I had no idea what to expect for the story telling style or even how Miller would approach the mythical and historical context of the story. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations, that I would be disappointed. This definitely kept me from picking it up sooner.
I am 100% happy that I picked it up last weekend though. Not only was it beautifully written, but the story was captivating. I wish I could have stayed home all day to read because I kept wanting to know what came next. I needed to know how Patroclus would handle the next situation he found himself in, if it would continue to be all-encompassing.
Until this moment, I had been a prince, expected and announced. Now I was negligible.Miller 21
The novel follows the journey of Patroclus, starting with the first moment that he meets the “best of all the Greeks,” Achilles, though Patroclus does not even learn his name. It navigates the path that leads him to be exiled to Achilles’ home of Phthia, where a seemingly magnetic pull brings the two boys together. The book blurb states:
Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.Miller
It is a description that takes the lifetime of two boys growing into men and packages it in line that matches perfectly with the tone of the story. The novel is poetic and haunting, beautiful and powerful. It covers the lives of two men, which could easily fill several books, in 369 pages. It does not feel like a single piece is missing because of the skill that Miller uses to tell the story.
I wanted to bury myself into the pages, to momentarily exist alongside them, to warn them of the end, if only to extend the song a little bit longer.
The blend between history and mythical is seamless. Appearances of goddesses and discussions of gods do not feel out of place. They are mystical without being larger than life, despite the fact that they are existing outside the regular realm of time. Thetis, the sea goddess and Achilles’ mother, walks the line between motherhood and goddess-hood, showcasing a mother’s love by using her pull as a goddess. She is overly protective, even if to her own and Achilles’ detriment at points.
The mortal characters are enchanting, pulling me in during every scene, especially those of Achilles and Patroclus. The relationship crafted between these two is beautiful. It does not feel contrived or as if it comes from nothing. While their interactions are simple at the start, they also feel realistic, accurate to a story of two young men and their love.
My stomach rolled, awash with nerves and relief at once. I drank him in, the bright hair, the soft curve of his lips upward. My joy was so sharp I did not dare to breathe.Miller 70
Some of the other memorable characters include Chiron and Briseis, both introduced at separate points in the plot, but equally important to how the story continues on. Chiron becomes a teacher to Achilles and Patroclus, giving them the skills they will need to live out their journey. Briseis is central to the final half of the story, especially the beginning of the end. Any other information leads right into spoiler territory.
“If you have to go, you know I will go with you.”Miller 118
Overall, The Song of Achilles is an incredible novel. It is one that brought about feelings of loss as it ended. I wanted to crawl back into the pages to read it for the first time again. I wanted to experience it all over again. It is enchanting and poetic. It is rich with warmth and love, passion and action. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves myths, historical fiction, and love stories.
Have you read The Song of Achilles? What did you think?
You can follow Madeline Miller on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Her website is here. You can purchase the book here.