Book Review: ‘The Song of Achilles’ By Madeline Miller

It is exactly 3:59 in the morning, and I have just finished reading ‘The Song of Achilles.’ This may seem like an exaggeration, but I cannot remember a time without this book in my life, three days ago. These days, there are rarely any books that keep me up all night, and it is always beyond thrilling to find one.

Written by Madeline Miller– who apparently spent ten years researching and writing this book – ‘The Song of Achilles’ is a book based on the mythology, and supposed relationship of Achilles, a half-god who was destined to be the best warrior of his generation, and Patroclus, an awkward, prince disliked by his father, who is exiled to live in Achilles’ kingdom, along with several other exiled princes. Here, Patroclus manages to gain Achilles’ trust, and from there, their relationship only grows stronger.

The book highlights their relationship right from its very beginning– when as teenagers, Patroclus realises what he feels towards Achilles. The connection the two have is unlike any other, and their relationship is depicted beautifully, with the two loyal to each other and deeply in love. While a man being with a man is frowned upon by most, the nature of Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship is no secret to anyone. However, no one dares to meddle, apart from a few mocking words here and there. In the midst of people who are vain and constantly at war, the innocence of Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship is refreshing and heart-warming. While Achilles is more impulsive and fiercely protective of Patroclus, Patroclus is calmer and more sensible, grounding Achilles and helping him to see everything going around him.

The climax of the book, the Trojan War, is when things begin to get tense. There are prophecies and kings and Gods involved– war everywhere, and things begin to get strained.

This is the part of the book where I almost want to stop reading, knowing things aren’t going to end well– but a book so beautiful and well-written is hard to put down, and I keep reading anyway.

I do not cry, but only just. ‘The Song of Achilles’ climbs its way up to the list of my favourite books, and I know I will never forget it.

For a book that is mythology-based, ‘The Song of Achilles’ is surprisingly original, and not at all monotonous. There is not one dull sentence in the entire book. The characters are as real as can be– Achilles the most likeable of all. Patroclus, in the beginning, annoyed me a little– which isn’t surprising, considering the fact that I dislike almost ninety-five percent of protagonists of any book. What was surprising was that as Patroclus grew, I began to love him, and I couldn’t imagine not liking him. His character development through the story, I believe, was the greatest, but his innocence and warmth remained until the very end. The other characters, though likeable (if not villians), do not play a role as major as Achilles and Patroclus, who are the only ones who seem important, in their own little world. Chiron, the centaur, Thetis, Achilles’ godess sea-nymph mother, his father, Peleus, Odysseus– all seem present enough, but mainly just to further the plot. Briseis is one character that is just as real and loveable as the two protagonists: a woman-slave brought to the camps during the Trojan War that Patroclus and Achilles save, and Patroclus ends up befriending. She turns out to be strong and helpful, and more important and impactful than most other characters.

Overall, ‘The Song of Achilles’ was an excellent book, with the central plot of a heart-warming relationship between two men. It is a book that I am surprised has not been done before– with movies like ‘Troy’ (2004) reducing the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus to just ‘friends’ or even ‘cousins’, deciding to ignore all the signs of their relationship in typical mainstream media-fashion.

It is a book that is worth reading, not just once but ten times, and I would stay awake many more nights to read a book like this.

It is now 4:56 in the morning, and it really is time to sleep.

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Saachi Gupta is an LGBTQ+ activist, animal lover and the author of 'With Love, or Something Like That.' She is a strong believer in equality amongst mankind.
Saachi Gupta

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