There is a certain captivity in Greek mythology that has always attracted me towards it. I have always been intrigued by the many gods that the Greek generally worshipped and the tales and songs of their super human heroes. So it was only natural for me to hunt down this book and read it as soon as I was aware of its presence.
To be honest when I first started reading this book I was extremely excited and my love for this particular genre might make this review seem a bit biased to you because I am only going to sing its praises. Most of us are aware of the war that took place between Greeks and the Trojans when Paris, a Trojan prince kidnapped Helen from her husband Menelaus. Homer’s Iliad is the epic based on this war. The song of Achilles is a book that retells the events of the war and Homer’s tale.
The story is told in first person by Patroclus, son of Menoitius, who later becomes a companion of Achilles. His pathos and woes of being an average boy born in a royal household and the tragic event that led to his acquaintanship with Prince Achilles constitutes the first part of the book. In the entire time, you hardly feel that this story is set in the early 13th century B.C. It feels like a regular boy scorned by his disapproving father and being compared to those more talented than him.
The companionship between Patroclus and Achilles is beautiful and mesmerizing. Their love for each other is pure and innocent. During the tenous years of the Trojan war we see them grow from two young boys, with immense responsibility to burden them and a prophecy to live up to, to two grown men who are somehow keeping their love unharmed in spite of the numerous duties and enemies they have. Patroclus protects Achilles’s honour in the same way Achilles protects Patroclus’s life. They are co dependent and simply cannot survive with one another.
Parallaly the war and its many atrocities are depicted. We see how easily the kings loot and rape and claim cities, women and treasures and offer human as sacrifices to the Gods. On the other hand, the gods are playing war too by taking sides and fighting with the mortals. Honour and bravery and treachery and witticisms are easily juggled by both the immortals as well as the humans and we were left to wonder just like many of the characters whether this monstrosity was inevitable.
Madeline Miller is an exceptionally good writer and her novel is engaging and keeps one sitting on the edge at all times. She brings details into the famous heroes that makes them seem perfectly relatable. The writing is well researched and gives a modern twist to this classic tale. A real achievement as a debut novel! I am hopeful that after reading this book you will become as much a fan of Greek mythology and classics as I am.