Book Reviews

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Book Review

“Name one hero who was happy.”

I think this is the point in this story when I knew to expect a tragedy. I mean, I think whoever has read The Iliad knows what is coming. I haven’t read it, though. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Complex, dense writing is something I could possibly get into if I had more than a few valuable hours of free time during my days.

The Song of Achilles is basically The Iliad fanfiction. It was narrated by Patroclus, who was Achilles’ companion. I could relate to Patroclus in the beginning. He felt rejected by his own father, weak around a crowd, and was just a very insecure boy.

“I had not disgraced myself with trembling or tripping, and my words had not been foolish. Still, my face burned with shame.”

Alright, preach it, Patroclus. In all honesty, there were times when I hated Patroclus. We had our ups and downs. I mean, the guy was self-deprecating to the point where he really didn’t value his own life. His entire existence revolved around Achilles. I didn’t love that. I get that people find this romantic, but I don’t. I wasn’t sure who these people really were, not really. I knew what they wanted, but I didn’t know why.

Then we have Achilles, Prince of Phthia. A half-god, beautiful and perfect man, who is also the greatest warrior ever. He’s a serious person, but he’s probably the only character in this book that made me laugh. I don’t know if that’s the reason why I liked him, although I’m saying that lightly. Most of the time, I thought he was just an arrogant, spoiled boy who ran to mommy for everything.

imageSo, Patroclus and Achilles are a romantic couple. Their relationship felt kind of surreal. Not unbelievable, because it made sense. But I felt like there wasn’t really much there. They met as kids, they became friends, companions, but then there was a set of times where Achilles had to leave and Patroclus had to go after him. It was this really strange codependent relationship that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Maybe I just found it dramatic and unoriginal.

The writing was at times poetic and meaningful. But there were many parts in which I got the feeling the author was uninspired in her story. I felt like there were some longer descriptions of unnecessary things that added little to the story. I wasn’t bored, but I wasn’t dying to keep reading. It didn’t move me.

This book was by no means bad. It wasn’t boring either. It was just lacking something. I wanted to feel like I was really in the story, not watching it from a telescope. I wanted to understand the characters better. The explanations given of their motivations were not satisfying.

I feel like I know a little bit more about Greek mythology, though. I actually remember reading The Odyssey in high school and I was completely enthralled in that journey. It’s one of those stories that made me love literature. I would recommend The Song of Achilles to all those who enjoy Greek mythology. It is easy to read, and overall informative.


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