“The Song of Achilles” review

“The Song of Achilles” review

The legend of Achilles is one of the most well-known Greek tales. Achilles was granted mortality except for his heel, and ended up dying from an arrow in the aforementioned spot, killing him. The phrase “Achilles heel,” meaning the weakness of someone usually seen as strong, derives from that legend. 

In a fundamental sense, it’s a tragedy. And that concept of Achilles’s tragic end is expanded in the book, “The Song of Achilles” written by Madeline Miller. Miller graduated from Brown University with a major in Classics, then an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale University. 

“The Song of Achilles,” as the title suggests, follows Achilles’s story, but is told in the first-person perspective of Patroclus, another figure of Greek mythology who—in later Greek works of the fourth and fifth centuries—was known to presumably have a romantic relationship with Achilles.

Miller explores this concept in a beautiful way. Her prose is simply gorgeous, an example being this well-known line by the fandom: “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” (134). 

Along with her great prose style is the way Miller progresses the story. It’s very much a slow-burn, taking a little less than half of the book to build up Achilles and Patroclus’s relationship from strangers to lovers. But what makes their relationship so believable is how slow it progressed. 

Because of the times they lived in and the circumstances of Patroclus’s exile to Achilles’s home, there would need to be some time before they truly opened up to each other and became friends then lovers, and I believe it feels very natural. Their relationship is the core of this novel, so it’s extremely important that their build up feels real. 

Moving on to the relationship itself, Achilles and Patroclus have a devastating relationship. Their scenes are well done both romantically and platonically. One can tell the foundation of trust between them, even at the very end. They very clearly know each other better than anyone else.

It’s one of the best depictions of a romantic relationship I’ve read about in awhile, and I appreciate how Millar handles this relationship in sense of it being gay. 

While one of their conflicts is hiding it because of the times they live in, their biggest conflict has to do with the tragedy of Achilles, and I think having that be the focus instead of their relationship being gay make the book even more impactful. There’s a sense of casual representation with their relationship, which is still hard to find in books, even if it’s getting more prevalent. 

“I really liked the book and the ending was very full circle,” said Hills junior Amy Sheehan. “The whole book was just so good and I really enjoyed reading it. 10/10, recommend.”

The world Miller creates is vast and expansive. One can tell she knows what she’s talking about in terms of Greek mythology and accuracy. There are many myths and concepts from Greek mythology she implements into her story with extensive research which makes the world feel more immersive. 

“I loved it. It was heart wrenching,” Hills sophomore Hadyn Hopper expressed. “It made me cry in a good way. I kept wondering if the characters were okay and was invested in what would happen. Some of the characters were very relatable even though they were from Greek mythology.”

“The Song of Achilles” is an enticing, magnificent, and heartbreaking novel that I highly recommend to anyone. It’s one that’ll surely leave you in tears by the last page


Photo Credits: Amazon.com