Senior sings praises of The Song of Achilles


Courtesy of Goodreads

The current U.S. paperback edition of The Song of Achilles.

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the ancient Greek Myth of Achilles and Patroclus during the Trojan War, written by Madeline Miller. And, it’s my absolute favorite book.

Miller puts a twist on their relationship, though, which is often portrayed simply as close friendship, and instead makes them romantic partners. The Song of Achilles is predominantly based off the Iliad, while realistically and wholly filling in certain blanks like Patroclus’s backstory and the beginnings of their relationship.

The Song of Achilles is incredibly character driven: the first half of the novel is almost entirely spent with Patroclus and Achilles sitting around Achilles’s castle while they become friends, and the Trojan War doesn’t become a factor until the second half. Miller takes her time developing the characters, which I believe pays off: they ultimately feel so real by the end of the novel that you’re fully emotionally invested in their relationship and both of their eventual, tragic fates. Miller makes this millennia old story with its equally old characters feel new and casts a whole different light upon it: you think you know the story already, but you really don’t. 

Miller’s writing style is elegant in its simplicity, yet hauntingly beautiful. Every scene is described with the utmost care and thoughtfulness, and every piece of dialogue feels realistic. If you’re intimidated by the Greek Mythology aspect to the novel, I’d ask that you try not to be: Miller rewrites the mythology to be easily understandable for an unfamiliar audience. I barely knew anything about the tale of Achilles and the Trojan War before reading it, but by the time I was done with the novel, it felt like I’d been studying both for a lifetime. 

Miller spent ten years writing The Song of Achilles, and that fact shines through. The Song of Achilles is a love letter to Greek Mythology that I haven’t, and honestly doubt I’ll ever, see rivaled in another piece of literature ever in the future. I’ve read it three times in the past three years, and every time I pick it up, I find something new to appreciate. I’ve also never sobbed while reading a book before I found The Song of Achilles, so if you just need a good cry, I’d recommend it for that too. 

The Song of Achilles is in equal parts enchanting, beautiful, and heartbreaking. I’ll never find another novel as gorgeous as this one, and nothing I write will ever come close to describing how touching of an experience reading this novel is. I will forever speak highly of The Song of Achilles. The world would be a far better place if it were required reading: I honestly believe that.

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