If you are like me and would rather watch a video review than read one, skip to the bottom. I got you covered.😉
This was, by far, one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. Though it came so highly recommended, it took me so long to pick it up! I even had it in my grasp for months when I bought it for someone as a gift and now that gift is given and I find myself woefully Achilles-less. This book is absolutely now on my list of physical books I need on my shelf. We read it for #bestbookclub for the month of June which just happened to be Pride month! Intentional? No. Perfect? Yes.
So, The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad which I have not read, but now I am dying to. Basically, The Iliad is an epic poem that portrays Achilles' part in the Trojan war. I've realized this last year that I really enjoy retellings. I guess I've always thought of them as a bit of a cheat, but now I can see the difficulty in taking a story that already exists in the world and breathing a new life into it (see A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer).
I recently watched an interview with Madeline Miller and she said that she was first introduced to Greek mythology by her mother who read her The Iliad before bed. Um, her mom just got huge points in my mind. My newest daughter's name is Calliope who (fun fact), in Greek mythology, is one of the nine Muses, the patron of epic poetry, and is said to possibly be Homer's muse for The Iliad and The Odyssey. Total coincidence as I named her before reading this book, though I did know what her name meant. Anyways, now I participate in lofty daydreams of reading The Iliad out loud to my little Calliope though my eldest daughter got sick of hearing me read my own books to her pretty fast and promptly picked up Harry Potter in grade 1 and went off in her own so this daydream may be wholly unrealistic. I’m gonna try anyways.
What It's About
This version of Achilles' story is written from the point of view of his dear friend, Patroclus who it’s been debated whether or not he was in fact Achilles‘ dear friend or if he was actually his lover. Apparently the words that Homer used to describe their relationship were quite ambiguous and it depends on which translation you read as to which side of the debate you fall on. In this version of the story, they are not only lovers but great great loves and it really goes deep into their relationship with each other. We get to follow them from the first time Patroclus sees Achilles in young childhood, to when they meet years later when Patroclus is exiled to live at Achilles' palace, all the way to adulthood and their deaths at the end of the Trojan war and all the excitement in between.
What We Thought
Everyone loved this book. It was SO good. We have never had such a great turn out and discussion as we had for this book. It was such a beautiful and pure love story, but had the mythological intrigue and the excitement of battle. It was fantastic and we are all impatiently waiting for Madeline Miller to write more books so we can stay immersed in the atmosphere she creates so flawlessly (apparently she is working on a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest). It's not a long book and we all agreed that we wouldn't have been upset if it drug on a bit longer. The final pages had us wanting more, not because it felt unfinished but because we missed the characters and their world. Madeline Miller does a phenomenal job of bringing familiar characters to life in a way that made us care deeply for them. I loved how Achilles himself isn't an entirely likable character, but to see him through Patroclus' eyes and to experience that unconditional love he has for him and that Achilles has for Patroclus back was just completely heartwarming. I couldn't get enough of their relationship and I'm totally loving the influx of male same-sex relationships that I am seeing in writing lately.
Five Stars. Definitely Five.