The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
When I think of reviewing this book, I am torn between the great love I had for the characters and the hate for the way it ended. At one point, I had to put the book down for about a week. I knew what was coming (the anxiety got the better of me and I skipped towards the end). I know, don’t judge me. But the Song of Achilles is the kind of book that will make you believe in that young, innocent and genuine love but still leave you heartbroken.
Not the kind of heartbreak The Fault In Our Stars or The Kite Runner leaves. With this one, at least Miller gave the characters a happy ending (oops, spoiler alert). If you are a fan of Greek mythology, this book should be on your To Be Read pile.
Patroclus, an awkward and scrawny prince, is on exile at the court of King Peleus. The King’s son, Achilles, is quite the opposite. The son of a mortal and a sea goddess, Thetis; he is confident, well built, a warrior of his time and as handsome as it can get.
Despite their differences, the two boys become good friends. They spend a lot of time together as they grow older, learning everything they can together. They are inseparable, despite the goddesses hatred towards Patroclus. The friendship grows, and so does their love. It matures into a sexual relationship and morphs into a life partnership, of some sort.
It is still clear from the word go that Patroclus is not cut for the fighting life. Achilles, on the other hand, is the true warrior of his time, none like him. When war breaks in Troy, he must join the troops to fulfil his destiny. Of course, Patroclus comes with him. For love, for the friendship and in a bid to keep his love alive for as long as possible.
It is 9 years into the war with Achilles conquering cities and no end of the war in sight. But there comes a time when Achilles stops fighting in retaliation to Agamemnon taking his war prize, a slave. What follows is Patroclus taking things into his own hands, quite literally. And it ends in tears. Premium tears!
And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.
When Patroclus goes to war disguised as Achilles, he meets his death in the battlefield. It destroys Achilles, sends him to a raging rampage where he kills Hector. He is still a broken man, always mourning Patroclus. Achilles loses his life at the hands of Paris, the son of Priam.
I am not one to leave such a book unfinished, fortunately. So, I picked it up later, hoping that these two soulmates find each other in the afterlife. It is only fair that their love should continue. And they do, albeit after a long time.
But it came, slow, poignant, innocent in the purest form and very powerful. It is the kind of pure love everyone searches. The war period killed every bit of me, to be honest. You know what is going to happen in the end. Still, you do not want to go through those events and emotions as the end of the book nears. The death of Patroclus was the tipping point for me. I cried that night, and I put the book away for a few days.
It is also interesting that the story’s narration is by Patroclus, even after his death. You can feel his pain as his soul wander the underworld, hoping and crying out to Achilles to let him be.
If you have read the Iliad by Homer, you already have a backstory. What stands out is how Miller does not skate about the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. I had this feeling of “are they more than just friends and the author is just letting us fill up the gaps on our own?”.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone, whether you are a fan of Greek mythology or not.
My ★ Rating 4.8
Goodreads ★ Rating 4.35 (as at July 2020)