The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is the story of Achilles from Greek Mythology told through the eyes of his friend and lover Patroclus.
Going into the book, as I was acquainted with the original Mythos, I knew it would not have a happy ending. Achilles did not have the happiest of tales but anything to do with myths and legends calls to me, ironically like a siren, and so I picked it up. I was also curious about the spin that Miller would put on the story and the use of the companion was one that interested me. The boy/man Patroclus is not vain or gullible and so his vision of Achilles was one of honesty and purity. This provided the story with a tone of sympathy of a boy hero turned proud and the struggles with a godly parent in the Ancient times. The story spans the life of the two boys and shows their bond and relationship develop from prince and outcast to soldiers in an unending war of pride.
I loved the personalities that Miller gave the two boys as they allowed for me to grow to like the characters and also notice the changes that showed their love blossoming in the pages. This attachment also made the book turn sorrowful as, knowing how the myth ended, I was also waiting for the moment when everything went wrong. The descent towards the end was a subtle one and I felt that Miller did it justice and also remained sensitive to the love theme of the story and the tone that she maintained with Patroclus as the narrator.
The first person, slightly unreliable narrator (I feel like he stayed true with what he said but he could only say what he saw – for example he rarely went with Achilles to meet Thetis and did not go into battle with him either) allowed for a less factual state of events and allowed for me to forget for a time what was to come and how the myth originally panned out. Therefore, it somehow still came as a shock when the events began to topple into the tragedy and I was close to tears towards the end, having watched these characters grow together and not wanting to read their demise. Yet, on the other hand, I wanted to honour their story and read to the end and it was as bittersweet as I expected.
Overall the story was one I would recommend to anyone interested in myths and even anyone who couldn’t give a damn. The story is gripping and has characters to root for. The weaving with ancient names and places is merely a bonus and I would definitely tell others to give it a read.