booktalk – The Song of Achilles

Where do I even begin? The Song of Achilles is a seriously painful and depressing retelling of The Iliad by Homer, the Greek author in the olden times. Madeline Miller mainly focuses on the tragic relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, warriors in the famous Trojan War. Told in Patroclus’ point of view, we see and feel every single moment between him and Achilles that makes this book just so memorable. Homer would certainly be proud of Madeline Miller for bringing his story justice. 

We start when Patroclus was a young prince, about eleven. After committing an accidental murder, he was exiled from his kingdom by his own father, to go and live in the land of Phthia, ruled by the legendary mortal king Peleus. You may have heard of King Peleus— he was the king whose wife, given by the gods themselves, was the cruel sea-nymph goddess, Thetis. Their child was the prophesied greatest Greek and best warrior of his generation— the Prince Achilles. At first, Patroclus started out as just another fostered exile in the castle, but accidentally, and maybe even fatefully, became Achilles’ closest friend and designated life companion. But companionship eventually turned into something more for both of them.

When Achilles was twelve, King Peleus sent him to train with the legendary trainer of heroes, the centaur Chiron. Motivated by love for his friend, Patroclus immediately followed and was soon taken in by Chiron, despite the constant protests of Thetis. For years, Chiron did his best to prepare both boys for the real world, teaching them the art of fighting, survival, and medicine. Although their training hadn’t ended yet, Achilles and Patroclus were called by King Menelaus of Sparta to get his wife, the legendary Helen of Troy, back from the clutches of the Trojan Prince, Paris. Honor and prophecy-bound, Achilles submitted to their cause, despite his mother’s desperate attempts to hide him from Odysseus and his men. 

Ten years in a war is sure to change a lot in a person, Achilles was no exception. He was restless. He wanted to fight and claim the glory and fame the Greek gods had promised him when he was born. Unfortunately for him, being greedy and impatient had a grave consequence. The cruel three Fates demanded a painful sacrifice from him. But was he ready to pay it? 

In the end, Achilles did get his fame, but only after a tragic loss. Achilles wasn’t sure if it was worth it, but at least he has Patroclus by his side.

The ending of this book emotionally broke me, I swear. I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe properly. The end was so heart-achingly beautiful and poetic, it hurt me on so many different levels. The Song of Achilles, for me, is the best possible way to retell a classic and beloved Greek myth that almost everyone knows. Madeline Miller expresses the feelings way better than the movie, Troy, (Yes, the one starring Brad Pitt). In closure, I highly recommend this book if you want something that makes you rethink a lot of things and look at life differently. But you have been warned. There’s a 99.99% chance you’re going to end up breaking down after the last chapters. Don’t worry though, you’re not alone if you cried so hard, your family thinks you lost a boyfriend. The book is most appropriate for teens age 17 and above, so if you happen to be seventeen,or have your seventeenth birthday coming out, maybe you should call up those aunts and uncles that sent your Christmas gift a little late, ask them to add this onto your gift requests. 

Happy Sunday everyone!

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