Friday, August 21, 2015

The Song of Achilles

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM

Age: Adult
Category: Historical, romance, LGBTQIA+
Rating: 5 stars

"And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth, when another is gone."

Rosie Thinks: This story is beautiful. I can't think of a better way to describe it. Everything, from the characters to the writing to the way Madeline Miller recreated the Illiad, is just utterly stunning. The retellings of Achilles are ridiculously numerous, as well as being well-known throughout the world, but I have never connected with it as much as I did this. And I have never read a novel that left me close to tears just from the way the sentences are crafted and the images the words evoked. In the legend, it is never quite certain the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, and Miller, a classical teacher herself, has taken the route that they were lovers. It took her ten years to write this story and she has stayed very true to the legend itself.

At the beginning, Achilles and Patroclus are as different as night and day. Achilles is the beautiful, self-confident, beloved prince, and awkward, unwanted Patroclus is captivated from the moment he sees him. Achilles, in all the retellings I've experienced has been completely unsympathetic to me - distant, arrogant, almost a bully. Somehow, Miller has created a character that is all of this yet made him into someone I could see as a real person, and someone who I admired and liked. He did not come off as arrogant and a bully at all - rather, self-assured and focused. Patroclus - well, he was just as masterfully characterised, if not better. He grew from being an envious, closed-off boy to a man who wasn't only defined by his love of Achilles, but was incredibly selfless and giving.

I adored the fierce relationship between the two, but, as I mentioned earlier, my favourite thing about the book is the way it is written. It is direct and to the point, with none of the flowery prose and digression of Homer's work. It is written in first person, from Patroclus' POV - my first question, being familiar with the legend, was how I was going to get a fulfilling story with this? But I most certainly did. The ending was incredible, and I generally can't stand how disappointing some endings can be. Miller never outright tells us what we should be thinking. Instead, she shows us how incredible Patroclus becomes, in a world of killing and greed. She shows how their growing friendship and eventual love, their devotion and loyalty.

There are so many quotes I want to share with you. I've highlighted so many, but I limit myself to one per review, if it's appropriate. Actually, you know what? I'm giving you two and I don't even care. The first quote I shared hit me hard, but this one is something that should be universally known:

"Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. 'No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from.'"

How is it possible for the story of Achilles to be original? You'll have to read and discover for yourself.


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