Book review: The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller *****

Book review: The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller *****

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfil his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

I borrowed this book from the library and I can’t tell you how upset I am that I can’t just put it on my bookshelf but have to give it back instead.

I know that only last week, I said that I thought The Martian was going to be my favourite book of the year. I already have to review that statement. I don’t see how anything can top this one. Sometimes you read a book and it’s so amazing you can hardly comprehend how anyone could have written it. Granted, it took Madeline Miller ten years to write this story down. I’m hoping it won’t take another ten years until she publishes new work.

(update, it didn’t take ten years and Circe was amazing too!)

Let’s talk about the book, shall we?
The story is written from Patroclus’s perspective. It’s his life we follow and the way in entwined with that of Achilles. His story has a lot of ups and downs. A mother who cannot take care of him and a father who thinks he’s a failure are not the greatest parents to grow up with. Eventually, his father disowns and exiles him and he is taken in by Achilles’s father. That is where things start to look up for him. He befriends Achilles and they start spending more and more time together. In the end, they tell each other everything, there are no secrets, no lies between them. They see each other as equals.

Beatiful writing throughout

There are many things I loved about this book, many reasons why I ended up giving it the maximum score. First, there is the perfect balance between the human story and the mythical story. There are centaurs and gods but it feels realistic because it’s Patroclus who tells you the story.
And then there is the beautiful writing. It’s difficult to explain why I like it so much so let me give you an example:

“I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me.
If I had had words to speak such a thing, I would have. But there were none that seemed big enough for it, to hold that swelling truth.
As if he had heard me, he reached for my hand. I did not need to look; his fingers were etched into my memory, slender and petal-veined, strong and quick and never wrong.
“Patroclus,” he said. He was always better with words than I.” 

I wish that I could write like that.

I recommended this book to my mother-in-law yesterday because both my husband’s parents taught Greek and Latin in secondary school (?? ages 12 to 18) so I’m pretty sure that they know the story of the Trojan war by heart but I’m convinced that she’ll like it.

(Update: both my parents-in-law loved it so I’m recommending them Circe next)

Honestly, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone because I know that this is one of those books that will stay with me.

Could I say that it’s my favourite book ever? I guess it’s too soon to say, but if I still feel this way by the end of the year, I will definitely give it that title. I will let you know.

The moment I find this book in a bookshop, I WILL buy it. I need it on my bookshelf to reread it whenever I feel like it. (If you know me, you’ll understand that this is a big thing because I rarely reread books. I can’t wait to start this one over again.)

The Song of Achilles – Mini Series?

I just looked up her website and in the news section she says:

“This posting is long overdue, but I’m thrilled to finally report that Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd., producer of the acclaimed BBC series Peaky Blinders, has optioned the rights to Song of Achilles for a possible television mini-series.  I will look forward to providing more updates on this if/as they develop!”

*Freaks out*
I’m fine, I promise! I really liked Peaky Blinders so please, please, please let this become a reality!!!

I apologise if this review was a bit all over the place. I find it incredibly difficult to put my thoughts on this book into words. I find myself thinking about the characters and the story at the most random of moments.

If you can recommend me books like this one, I would be forever in your dept.



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