Saturday, June 27, 2020

#BookReview: The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller


4.5/5 Book Emojis!

Format Used: 

Kindle Edition

Pages - 389

*Note: The views below are unbiased and solely my own. The copy of the book was personal and self-owned. 


"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.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles and Patroclus (from the Iliad) where Patroclus, a young boy is banished from his father's kingdom on accidentally killing another boy, and sent as as an exile to Phthia where he meets Achilles- Aristos Achaion and the son of the king. The book spans across their boyhood and coming of age, growing up only to realise that their time together has come down to be placed in the Trojan War where their prophecies and fates will play out for the legends to speak of. 

Madeline Miller has done a great job in adding a life to the legendary myth of the two people whose relationship was speculated as a controversial topic for centuries, by historians. The writing of this book was extremely personal and the reason why it is so successful, what I believe, is how she has a deep spiritual connection with every person in this myth. She knows the characters well, which is why she's able to give them the voices they need to be so deeply resonating with the readers. She has empathised and in a way, almost transformed herself in writing as half-god Achilles or the exiled underdog Patroclus or the stone-cold sea nymph Thetis or the senile but wise Peleus or the obnoxious and selfish Agamemnon and every single person whom we come across. 

I, a person who passionately studies Greek and Roman Mythology, took about a month to finish this book since I had to fact-check and read beyond the pages of every single incident. And lo and behold, I was absolutely mesmerised by how perfectly this book was able to depict the immensely intimate, warm-blooded and pure relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. The way Madeline weaves her sentences into personalised emotions for the two as well as everyone/everything around them, I was swooning with each paragraph. It's powerful and yet adequately soft for a legendary myth. 

I wasn't able to give a 5-star rating for small discomforts I felt in reading two particular scenes that childish and written in a rush (respectively): Achilles in the palace of Lycomedes and the very last scene of the book. Despite that and the fact that I knew how the myth ends, the author was successful in leaving me devastated with her writing and character-building skills. The way she moulds her writing to accommodate romance, war, coming-of-age, parenting, sex and travel: all wrapped up inside the golden veil of Homeric Greek is magnificent.

Conclusion: This is one cultured gay story based on a Greek myth. What else do I have to say for someone to pick it up and read it and wail with me? Nothing. 

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