The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Standalone Book - No Series

The legend begins...

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

“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.”

Not a type of book I’m usually drawn to, but I read it as part of a group read for a challenge. I’m glad I dug in because I ended up being impressed. Beautifully written, haunting story, tragedy amidst beauty, well done.

Of course innocence is tarnished and horror happens, but there is still a glimmer of hope. The writing style is nearly poetic, it’s gorgeous and smooth and I struggled to put it down. I plan to check out more of the author’s work.

I don’t care about the mythological legends of Achilles, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment. I feel for the story’s characters, but the winner is of course Patroclus, who the story is mainly told through as a POV. He’s sweet, sensitive, dealt a bad hand, loyal. Their love falls into obsessive, devotion territory. I was literally tense at the end to see if there is a certain action taken that would help them both in their ‘relationship’ - if that hadn’t fell through, the bitterness would have sank my enjoyment and book rating. It’s telling how much I liked the book that I became so tense on the outcome.

The war scenes are brutal and the changes are heartbreaking as Achilles breaks under his power, but Patroclus still stays loyal and determined to endure the hardships until neither can. Achilles as a hyped up son of a god and a king and his head already inflated before he set foot outside his kingdom, he doesn’t immediately embrace his “fate” but when it’s here he gets over his hesitation of killing people….fast. That said, flawed characters are more convincing characters, and it’s not as if you can have only purity and goodness in a time of war and darkness, especially with mythological legend.

Sadly women are treated worse than cattle throughout the book, but that was among just one of many awful, awful things about stories such as these.

A good re-telling story. The romance is soul-searching stuff, a legendary level.

“He smiled, and his face was like the sun.”

Winner of the 2012 Orange Prize (now The Women’s Prize for Fiction)

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1 comment:

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