The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Posted: April 22, 2016 by Arushi in Book Review
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

 

The Song of Achilles is not a history though it is historical – per maybe mythological is a better word. It is a lyrical (I have no other word for the melody that seems to run through its narrative) novel, based on the events described in the Iliad and told from the point of view of Patroclus. It is poetry in the form of prose.

As clear from the title, it is the story of Achilles. Not just of the Trojan War but a sketch of the life and death of the greatest hero of his time. Patroclus, named his cousin in the movie Troy, was Achilles’ most beloved companion. They had been together for most of their lives, and this novel describes them as beloved to each other. So deeply in love, that life without the other appeals to neither.

Borrowing heavily from ancient Greek sources, the book manages to be elegant while narrating a story of blood and battle. Because this is truly a song – and it is not about how Achilles died and who he killed, but rather it is about how he lived and loved.

It is a book that needs to be read because it is an experience in and of itself. It is not the story only that makes it what it is, but Madeline Miller has managed to add something to beauty of this tale by her words. Even nearly three millenia after the sack of Troy – Achilles lives on.

It is a narrative of brutality tempered by kindness. A story of the ages. Of a hero who chose fame over longevity, and whose name is resplendent even after the gods of his time have tarnished.

 

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