If you were looking for a retell of one of the greatest stories in Greek mythology, there are countless options. Paris and his love (or lust) for Helen, Orpheus and his devotion to Eurydice or even Alcestis and her sacrificial love for her husband, Admetus.
To those stories, we may now add Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles.” In this novel, Miller tasked herself with modernizing one of the most well-known works of literature. Achilles is the strong, beautiful child of a goddess. He is destined to be the greatest of all Greeks.
In the novel, Miller exposed the lover hidden underneath the armor that sheltered Achilles. “The Song of Achilles” does not belong to Achilles at all. The story is told from the perspective of Patroclus, who, exiled by his father, has found a home in the court of Peleus, Achilles’s father. Without realizing it, Patroclus finds himself in love with the gracious king’s son: the aristos achaion.
To Patroclus’s surprise, Achilles returns his love, and the two boys transition into adulthood and a love affair that is more powerful than the Fates themselves.
As in any great Greek story, the sense of tragedy never lets these two lovers live peacefully. Achilles has always known that he must choose between a short, glorious life, or a long, concealed one. Patroclus has known this too, but will support his companion in the decision he makes.
We know how the tragedy ends, but do we know the real Achilles’ heel of this book? After spending 10 years writing this book, Miller’s prose is more poetic than almost any translation of Homer. This is a deeply affecting version of the Achilles story. A multidimensional man: A son, a father, a husband and a lover now exists where a superhero previously stood.
“The Song of Achilles” is a book that will definitely leave a mark on you. The emotions and hardships portrayed in this novel are truly palpable. While some parts of the book are painful to digest, you just can’t stop flipping those pages.
Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this fashioning of the epic Trojan War is an ode to imagination, a devastating love story and an almighty battle between fate, peace, glory and the human heart.