The Song of Achilles: Review
I am a huge fan of mythology, and I love stories of gods and demigods. Over the last few years I’ve read several YA retellings of various mythological settings: Starcrossed, Wildefire, The Goddess Test, Everneath to name a few, and while they all had their merits, and I enjoyed them, they just didn’t have the same oomph as the originals. Maybe it was because they were slightly watered down, or maybe it was because of the modern settings. It was nice to finally read a novel set in the actual time period. (By the way, this is not a YA book, though older teen fans of mythology will enjoy it). I’m also a sucker for a tragic love story. This seemed like the perfect book for me…and it was.
The Song of Achilles is a beautifully written tale of Achilles and Patroclus. We all know Achilles best from the legend of his heel being his biggest weakness — the spot where his mother dunked him in the River Styx to make him immortal. The place where she held him around his ankle was left mortal and that was his downfall. Depending on who you talk to, this story doesn’t always hold up, but that is how I remember first learning of Achilles. Patroclus, on the other hand, I knew very little about, other than he was a close friend and companion to Achilles.
In this book, Ms. Miller has constructed a deeply moving love story. Achilles and Patroclus are more than friends. Their relationship is both romantic, touching and tragic. Ms. Miller’s love for mythology is evident. Her characters are so vivid and filled with emotion, you can’t help but cheer for them and wish for their happiness, even though, if you know the outcome, you know their happiness is short-lived. Still, I couldn’t help but wish history could be rewritten to save the fate of these two men.
For the record, this book isn’t all romance. It’s actually a retelling of Homer’s The Iliad with a slightly different bent (and it’s easier to read for those of you allergic to the original prose ) There is plenty of history and action to be absorbed, so if the love thing turns you off, don’t worry. It’s very well-balanced.
What I really appreciated was how believable the story was. Nothing seemed forced, and the love between the two felt genuine. Another high point was even though I knew a lot about the Trojan War, Ms. Miller’s writing made it feel fresh, exciting and new again. This book won the Orange Prize for Fiction and I can see why. It is exquisitely written and it is a book that deserves a spot on your shelf. I HIGHLY recommend it.