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The Song of Achilles – Book Review

By Madeline Miller

The funeral pyres burn through the night, their greasy smoke smeared across the moon. I try not to think how everyone is a man I know. Knew.’ –The Song of Achilles

It has been a very long time since I last wrote a book review, but after just completing The Song of Achilles with tears streaming and heart fit to break, I thought about starting again.

This is a much differently spun version, I believe, to the story of the siege of Troy to reclaim Helen of Sparta, the fairest woman in the world, to her rightful husband Menelaus whom Paris had stolen away in the night than the likes of, for example, The Iliad (although that mainly centres around the time of Achilles’ rage). It also sheds light on Patroclus, Achilles faithful companion who (or at least it has been rumoured) he was said to have had a relationship with; ‘May your bones be not buried apart from my bones’ as one of the lines runs in The Iliad.

Instead, The Song of Achilles focuses more entirely on Patroclus’ and Achilles’ friendship/loveship throughout their equally tragic lives, and portraying Thetis, Achilles goddess mother, as a cold, deadly and ice-sharp maternal figure, unlovingly and passionately sending Achilles to his inevitable fate whilst watching in disapproval of his affair with Patroclus. This, once again, is much different to how Thetis is described in The Iliad; she seems caring, comforting Achilles in his rage, begging to Zeus for his aid and stooping to the lowest of the low for a goddess-she is hardly immortal, even. This is quite a nice twist on the story, and gave for a fresh view on such a classic tale, along with Patroclus and Achilles.

The book compels you to read on, driving you through, tears or no. It is written in the view of Patroclus, although he ever seems to be distant, faraway, reminiscing the past; years spill into one sentence, a decade in two, rather quickly dashing through the long stretching years of the bleakest period in the Trojan War; where both sides suffered countless losses, and there was no greatly significant gain or loss of territory during this time. This, nevertheless, does not deter the reader from the story line, and you will soon find yourself immersed in this beautifully heart-rending tale of two lives entwined together.

The Song of Achilles manages to deliver a resound performance, weaving the story into your heart from where it will grip you and force you onwards, no matter the [emotional] consequences. For a first book, Miller shone a new light on the well-worn story of the Trojan War, spinning a new web in one thick and filthy of blockbuster movies and a thousand translations. We need something fresh and inspiring-which is exactly what The Song of Achilles is.

There is no need to know anything about the War to understand this story, neither is it particularly necessary. And no, there are no Trojan horses.

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  • I hope you liked that review. I only wrote that in the space of about thirty minutes, but sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, it is a beautiful tale that needs to be read. I also recently finished The Last Act of Love by Kathy Rentzenbrink, a rather recently published book on the boundaries of love and where it can take us, which was delivered in an extremely powerful way (I had never read the likes of it; I doubt I will ever read another on the same level), becoming the second out of a rather measly three books that have truly managed to make me well up, the last being of course The Song of Achilles and the first being The Wheel of Time: A Memory of Light (the last in the series), written by the late Robert Jordan [a pen name; his real of which is James Oliver Rigney Jr.] and then thus co-authored by Brandon Sanderson (who, thankfully, is still among us and has written the Mistborn series, of which I have heard are also very good) which is another fantastic book (or rather, series of books) that you should read-although I must say they are fantasy genres, and not for the impatient-it is fourteen books long!


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