‘The Song of Achilles’ made me fall in love with its brand of love
Book Name: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
I have to be honest. I was never fascinated by Achilles or his life. I only knew his real weakness was in his heel. That’s about it haha. I was never interested in googling the Trojan War and finding out what really led to it. I always assumed it had something to do with an invasion or some other reason men create wars, fight them, and die. Wars are like that, no matter the cause or the time they are fought in. So, when my friend recommended me this book, I had too many presumptions in my mind.
What drove me nuts was my curiosity
I had heard so much about Madeline Miller because of her book ‘Circe’ but I had never picked it up and checked it. Work took over my life and reading became an activity I could call a luxury. I did it only when I could afford to spend my time on it. Naturally, ‘Circe’ remained on my to-read list for a long time. But, ‘The Song of Achilles’ was already driving me crazy with curiosity. Was this book going to reveal a lot about Achilles’ heel or was it about something I could never expect? I had no idea. I generally avoid reading the blurb because then you know ‘too much’ about the story. My friend’s ‘This book will make you weep’ was enough to convince me that I had to give this book my time, energy and my emotions.
I fell in love with Patroclus
When I started reading the book, the first thing I realized was that it was from the first perspective. I didn’t know whose perspective it was until I found out that it was Patroclus. He grew on me with each tap on my kindle screen. He was simple-minded, insecure, and kind. He was innocent in his own way, a bit scared all the time. I was hooked. I wanted to see what Patroclus meant to the story, what was his purpose in Achilles’ life. With each page I read, I was convinced that doom was near for Patroclus. Things just kept getting worse for him until he met Achilles.
Madeline Miller is a brilliant author
Madeline Miller shows great strength in narration and description. She spent a decade writing this book and the effort shows on each page, each transition, description, and expression. I could picture everything she described, even Patroclus (I secretly think Avan Jogia would make a great Patroclus if a movie based on this book is ever made). Achilles in Madeline Miller’s eyes is breathtaking but also unreachable for a while. I found it hard to connect with him, to understand him. I couldn’t see his backbone. He was led by Thetis all the time, though not happily. It was disconcerting until I saw his tender side. It was a brilliant transition, the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. I did not expect it to go that way but it did and it pleasantly surprised me.
I couldn’t stop reading and wondering what was going to happen next. There is so much tension in the way Madeline writes. I had my stomach contracted when I understood what was in store for Achilles. And there he was, sailing on the ship towards his destiny, a demi-god so vulnerable yet so proud and ambitious. It was better once I knew who he was and what his true worries were. I could understand his brand of love and care. The little gestures helped the love between Patroclus and him blossom. There was no frill, no forced affection. Everything was just the right amount- yearning, doubt, desire, uncertainty, fear…all of it.
The relationship was beautifully unraveled as the book moved towards the climax. I could feel my heart sinking and possibly my mind reeling once I found of what Patroclus could do to remain morally right but still give the glory to Achilles. It was…surprising and heart-wrenching.
Supporting characters were impactful
While the story of Patroclus and Achilles moved forward, it was impossible to not think about Agamemnon and his annoying way of trying to one-up Achilles, Breisis who was a place of comfort for Patroclus when Achilles went to war, Ajax who was afar but always looking at Achilles, Menelaus and Odysseus steering things in the right direction and making it easier to imagine how a world where wars were fought looked. These characters added depth to the story. Thetis’ presence in Achilles life as his mother and a sea-nymph constantly under the purview of the Gods was a bit too much to stomach at times. It made me realize that possessive mothers were a thing since times immemorial.
The book did make me weep
As expected, I did cry, for various reasons. I find it really amazing when authors get their readers to shed tears with their words or their lack thereof. Madeline is brilliant with her words and she made me curl my toes every time Patroclus came forward to do something he had never done before. I was rooting for him too hard throughout the story. I don’t think I will ever be able to forget him or Achilles or their love for each other.
Troy (2004) wasn’t what I expected it to be
The book naturally made me watch Troy (2004) but the minute I realized that it didn’t match with what I read, I gave up on it at the twelveth minute. Also, Brad Pitt as Achilles was a big turn-off (I love him but I imagine Achilles to look like Matt Bomer haha). Orlando Bloom as Paris was meh. I guess when you watch movies from 2004, something just doesn’t sit right. Maybe it was the way it was shot? I can’t put a finger on what it is.
If you are a sucker for a book with excellent flow, brilliant narrative, and descriptive writing then this book will make your heart burst. It also has the power to take you to a place in your heart which you rarely visit while living a hectic life. It was hard to write this review without revealing too much. I rate this book 5/5 for all its amazing elements and the way it has captured a delicate, beautiful love story between Achilles and Patroclus amidst a tumultuous war.
I am going to go ahead and list the quotes from the book that made me tear up.
Quotes from the book
“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.” Madeline about Patroclus and Achilles at their final union
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” Patroclus about Achilles
“It is right to seek peace for the dead. You and I both know there is no peace for those who live after.” King Priam to Achilles.
“Name one hero who was happy.”
“In the tent, Achilles grieved with his whole being and the gods saw. He was a man already dead, a victim of the part that loved, the part that was mortal.”
Find more about ‘The Song of Achilles’
It is a New York Times Best-seller. But it here