“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”
― Madeline Miller,
It’s been so long my Possums. I’ve finally finished the rehearsal stage of my tour, and our show goes live on Sunday! Meanwhile I thought I should pull my finger out and get on with writing this review of a book I finished weeks ago. (Whoops).
Lately I’ve been getting a little fed up of YA (please don’t hurt me) and I’ve been yearning for something a little different. So I decided to take a book holiday and try something from a genre I don’t normally delve into.
(I know) I’m just as shocked as you. What’s even more shocking is that I absolutely adored this book.
Since the release of Madeline Miller’s new book Circe I kept hearing glowing praise, not only for Circe but also for her first book The Song of Achilles. And then when I came across the special Bloomsbury edition at work, I couldn’t help myself. It has French Flaps. (don’t).
This is in my top favourite books of 2018. For those of you who will tune out before this review is finished let me sum this book up for you in one sentence. This story is deliciously written, heartbreakingly romantic, and easily devourable.
The Song of Achilles is somewhat a retelling of The Iliad. Focusing on the tale of Achilles from around age twelve until the end of the epic battle of Troy, told through the perspective of his lover; Patroclus.
If you are a homophobe you will not like this book. Also, get off my blog.
You do not need to know or understand Greek Mythology to enjoy this book. I had a book of Greek Myths when I was very young and can’t remember a damn thing. I do happen to own a copy of Stephen Fry’s Mythos though, which I will get round to eventually ~laughs manically from beneath huge TBR pile~. But my point is – don’t feel like you need to brush up on your Ancient Greek mythology, you can delve straight into this story as ignorant as I was and still have a gay ol’ time (literally).
I normally cannot abide overly descriptive, flowery writing filled with metaphors, but Madeline Miller writes so beautifully and in no way shape or form does it feel pretentious or forced. It flows off the page like water off a ducks back, she manages to create some truly stunning imagery. The way she describes this Ancient world, though long dead today, brings it to life. Her attention to detail, the dust on the road, the cypress tree smell on the air, the way she describes the food they eat; honey, olives, figs, bread, it all just lends to this sun-warmed, Mediterranean picture. And if you close your eyes, you can almost feel yourself there.
“The Summer grew hotter, and we sought the river’s shade, its water that threw off arcs of light as we splashed and dived. The rocks of the bottom were mossy and cool, rolling beneath my toes as I waded.” ― Madeline Miller,
Achilles is an imperfect and selfish character. But one you cannot help but love. As arrogant as he is, he is also charming and utterly sincere in his emotions. Miller really creates the sense of his perfection in all he does. And as we go through his life, cleverly and subtly changes his character from boy-like naivety to adult ignorance in regards to his fate.
Despite the historic Hero being Achilles the wonderful juxtaposition Miller creates is telling the tale from the point of view of his lover, Patroclus.
Patroclus is a pure soul and an absolute sweet heart. Something that draws you in so effectively is the writing from this “secondary character” point of view as opposed to the “Hero/main character/protagonist” which is the norm in most books. It means that we get a more honest view of our hero Achilles, along with those flaws that may not be exposed if it were told from his point of view. Whilst in this tale Achilles is the pinnacle of perfect – Patroclus is really very ordinary. He has no real talents, is socially inept and is nursing some serious childhood trauma. And yet he has a strange, awkward charisma that is utterly endearing.
The romance in this book is heart-achingly splendid. The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is so pure, it makes for a truly beautiful read. They are absolutely devoted to each other and it is that simple. And I found the conclusion of this tale extremely moving. And y’all know that I am not easily moved.
“He smiled, and his face was like the sun.”
― Madeline Miller,
Now, I say this book isn’t fantasy, but it does have an element of magical realism. As it is based on myth, we do have Gods and Goddesses making appearances.
So if, like me, you are a die hard fantasy fan – there is something in this book for you to enjoy.
Overall I recommend this book highly. It isn’t hard to tell why this book has spot as a modern classic, and it’s 4.3 star rating on Goodreads is no word of a lie either.
I give The Song of Achilles: 4.5/5 stars.