Book Club: The Song of Achilles Review
If you’re anything like me, then you have Rick Riordan to thank for your unhealthy obsession with Greek Mythology. He created some of the best characters and stories that revolve around the Greek Mythos, and I haven’t been able to get enough since then. (Percy Jackson > Harry Potter) But Greek Mythology isn’t a fun read. The stories are great, mostly tragic, and always entertaining, but they can be tough to read most of the time.
Having experienced Percy Jackson at such a young age, I was set up for disappointment later on. The Iliad and the Odyssey are great stories, but who has the mental capacity to read old epic poems. And this brings me to the wonderful writing of Madeline Miller in The Song of Achilles.
She blends the old poetic versions of greek stories so well with modern-day vernacular that drew me in from page one. Honestly, I think we should replace the Iliad with this book in reading curriculums. People would have a fit, but they can get over themselves.
To follow the story of Achilles and the Trojan War without having to ask your teacher what the author is saying was such a fresh breath of air. But be warned, this book will leave you absolutely shattered. I haven’t cried this hard over a book in a long time. I knew what was going to happen, but that didn’t help me prepare for the absolute waterfall that came streaming down my face. But the story and how she writes it aren’t the only compelling parts of this book.
The Character of Achilles
I’m not going to call Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War and Legend of Greek Mythology, a golden retriever boy, but I will say that at the beginning of his story, he was sweet, innocent, and naive. What we got to see in Madeline Miller’s story was how war changes a man.
During the Trojan War, we see the war slowly taint Achilles. We see him change into something he wasn’t. And as a reader, it pained me to watch it happen. Not because he changed but because he was forced into a war he wanted no part of. I genuinely think Achilles would have been happy being a no-one in history.
A cliff note in the ongoings of the war. But does anyone ever really want to sacrifice a piece of themselves to be a hero knowing the full cost? But not all of his character was lost. He had an anchor in Patroclus.
The Character of Patroclus
Possibly one of the nicest characters ever written on paper. I mean, how can you not love Patroclus? He was what made Achilles the hero and man. There was something special about Patroclus, and it was Achilles who noticed it.
Throughout the story, we see Achilles battle his humanity and his godly heritage. But because of Patroclus, he was able to show compassion and love. Patroclus was THE person to Achilles. The one he could go to and confide in and trust. Imagine finding your person, the one that keeps you grounded in life—the one who, in the thick of war, reminds you to be human.
When Patroclus died at the hands of Hector, something in Achilles broke. From that point forward until his end, it was bloody war with no compassion. An unbreakable man with a broken heart and nothing to lose is terrifying on the battlefield. After Patroclus’ death, Achilles no longer fought his godly side and lost humanity because of it.
Achilles and Patroclus’ Relationship
I talked a little about it already, but I truly believe that these two were soulmates. They loved each other, and no matter what was thrown their way, they always found each other.
I write about relationships (and other things) for a living, but I don’t think I’ve ever read of a better relationship before. The honesty between the two of them was unparalleled. They talked about everything with each other. They loved each other unconditionally and tried to support each other as best they could. When Achilles made his decision, Patroclus knew he would support Achilles even if it was something that Patroclus did not want to do.
When we talk about Achilles, it’s usually accompanied by talking about his weakness, the Achilles Heel. But after reading this book, I think his true weakness was also his strength. His love for Patroclus allowed him to keep pieces of himself during the war. So yes, if you hit Achilles in the heel, he is going down, but his actual downfall was Patroclus’ death.
My god, the way Achilles grieved. Madeline Miller captured in those moments so perfectly the grief of losing someone you love. I was left sobbing. I could feel the pain of Achilles. Their love for each other was real and true, and it was so freaking beautiful.
To Sum it Up
All in all, this book is easily one of my favorites now. Definitely top 5 of all time. I will have to wait a little longer and wait for the recent bias to wear off. But when an author can break me down to absolute tears to where I compare it to Ace’s death in One Piece, you know it was real. I cannot recommend this book enough! So if you grew up with Percy Jackson, love history, or one the most heart-wrenching tragic love stories, then this is the book for you. Just make sure to buy tissues for the tears. You are going to need them.
This month, we are reading The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall. Follow the story of Sofia after she escapes from a labor camp in Russia 1933.
Looking for more books to read? Check out last month’s book selection: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge