THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller

Odysseus inclines his head. “True. But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another.” He spread his broad hands. “We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?” He smiles. “Perhaps one day even I will be famous. Perhaps more famous than you.” 
― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

Why can’t the gays be happy? Why? Someone save us from the Greek Tragedies!

This book was beautiful. I looooooooved it. I switched back and forth between the audiobook and the library book, both of which I highly recommend. It’s a lush, sumptuous tale… in which the gods live among us, in which history is represented in its coldness and blood. Lives are short, wars are long, and honor and glory are men’s games. The narrator is Patroclus (shy, stubborn, horny, introverted Patroclus), faithful friend and lover of Achilles (naive, confident, demigod of war) – and their relationship is the focal point of the story – the gods, the wars, the women were all secondary… the landscape in which this love story is painted.

And you know it’s going to be sad. I mean… that 3,000 year old spoiler has been around long enough that we know it. So the dread, the mounting doom that builds… it’s unbearable. It’s delicious. It’s heartbreaking. I sobbed all over the place – even though I knew what would happen! Bury our ashes together! Oh, the sweet agony! Oh, my poor puffy eyes.

Here’s the thing – the spoilers don’t matter. It’s not what’s happening, necessarily, it’s how it’s told. The language, the prose – that’s what this book is about. With that in mind… here’s a few scenes that stuck with me (spoilers):

My favorite parts of this book were the unexpectedly adorable moments between our lovers… like when teenage Achilles comes home one night and announces he’s just found out his mother, an all-seeing goddess, can’t actually see into the cave they’re staying at… and the two boys just stare at each other as all that news implies sinks in… then pounce like hungry lions. Or when young Achi is in disguise as a woman and Patty shows up and he leaps into his arms saying, “Oh, my husband has come!” Or when they save a random prisoner of war, a woman, and take her into their tent for protection – but she assumes she’s about to be raped and no matter how much they try to calm her down and assure her, it’s a nightmare cause they don’t speak the same language, so Patty boy just grabs Achi and puts a big smooch on him and message received loud and clear. Odysseus is also hysterical and rude and conniving and I enjoyed all of his scenes – his clever turn of phrase, his keen understanding and manipulation of situations.

And you have to realize, these situations are all told with this very thick narrative voice – this metaphor and simile heavy language that really sings to you while you read it – as if the breaths you’ll inhale and exhale while you speak the lines are perfectly timed to fit this hypnotic rhythm… very much like a poem… or an old play… it’s beautifully done. Madeline Miller obviously spent a long time tailoring these sentences to create this tale. She’s a drama and classic major… so… you know… she knows her stuff.

I can’t wait to read Circe – her latest book. Though I’ll probably have to take a little break and read something fluffy or light first, to clear the palette. Maybe some YA fantasy or something.

RATING: FIVE STARS

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Originally published: 2011
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology, War story

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