The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Photo by Josiah Lewis on

I cannot say I chose to read this book out of nowhere. I had already experienced Miller’s work before, when I read Circe. It was exceptionally well written, but even then I was hesitant about reading another book about Greek Mythology. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Circe was a book about a strong woman, how would this compare? You can’t compare them, they are equally and beautiful different, I realized.

The Song of Achilles is a romance, one that I was not expecting. I picked it up, read it on my phone, and was slow to start reading it, because life got in the way. But I sat down yesterday, during my lunch break and I dove more into the book and I could not stop reading. After work I came home and continued to read. Never mind that I had plans to go to the gym, never mind that I had started watching a really interesting show on Netflix the night before and wanted to watch the rest of the show. The story captivated me. I know very little about Greek Mythology, never really shown an interest about it before until I read Circe a few months ago. But The Song of Achilles drew me in too. The innocence and portrayal of Achilles; Patroclus’s character. The way they had no secrets from one another, the story of how they met, and their childhood. It was a fairytale that my mind does not want to leave from just yet. Why leave this world of gold, of the simple and deep love that begins in the halls of a great kingdom, of a love so pure between two people?

I loved Achilles. How could I not? The story is viewed from Patroclus’s point of view, and he only has wonderful things to say about Achilles. We meet Achilles and can only view him from Patroclus’s eyes. He is without fault. He is beautiful. He is greater than this world. But Achilles wasn’t without fault. He is human, after all, and if reading Greek Mythology has shown me anything, is that some Greek gods can be the greediest, most arrogant beings in the world. In the end, he chose to be a hero, even if that meant living a short life. Even if it meant not becoming a god. He had three options: fight in the Trojan war and be hero but live a short life, not fight in the Trojan war and lose his gifts but live a long life, and, become a god. Two of the options just make no sense for Achilles. If he did not fight in the war, would he have truly been able to be happy? The answer is no. He had a skill that he was never able to properly use and to reach his full potential, he needed to fight in the war. But this “skill” brought him destruction. He lost his sense of self to the Trojan war. Pride eventually destroyed him and Patroclus.

I am just glad he did not choose to be a god. Gods cannot go to the underworld, and I do not think Patroclus would have been able to become one. At least, this way, Achilles became the legend he wanted to become, and was able to spend the rest of eternity with his beloved. This whole story, this whole novel, is the song that Patroclus sings to Achilles. Miller’s prose reads like a song, and it is just so beautiful.

What about you? What were your thoughts when reading The Song of Achilles?

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