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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller


Originally released back in 2012, I came across this book when it was republished as a paperback last year. I was captivated by the novel’s premise: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a re-telling of Homer’s Illiad through the eyes of Patroclus, the servant and lover of Achilles. So I decided to read it, and I’m glad that I did.


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a tragic love story based on Homer’s account of the Trojan War, The Illiad. In this novel, we get very believable backstory of Patroclus and Achilles. Patroclus and Achilles become friends from boyhood, and fall in love. But they are complete opposites. Patroclus is irritable, inhibited, unpopular, physically weak, and clumsy. Achilles, in contrast, is almost superhuman. He’s good natured, popular, physically strong, and graceful. Achilles is also half-human and half-god, and is destined to win immortality in the Trojan War while Patroclus is merely a mortal whose destiny appears to be inconsequential.


One thing that the two have in common is their courage, but they are courageous in different arenas. Achilles is courageous in matters of battle. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s the best warrior in Greece without even trying. Patroclus, on the other hand, is courageous in matters of the heart—an arena where the mighty Achilles sometimes falters.


As Patroclus and Achilles mature, and as their love and affection for each other matures, a sense of foreboding settles in. Patroclus recognizes the fact that Achilles is destined for great things, and that he isn’t. Even worse, Patroclus also painfully understands that Achilles will gain immortality only by dying a glorious death, leaving him behind. Achilles understands this as well, and that is why he too resists his destiny any way he can (sometimes valiantly and sometimes ridiculously). Achilles is happy with Patroclus as things are, and doesn’t want them to change—but even a demigod can’t resist cruel fate.

Some may be put off by a romance between two men, and decide not to read it. That’s really unfortunate, because they aren’t only missing out on a good book; they’re missing out on a true work of inspiration. This is a story for everyone. Readers love this book so much, they inserted quotes into their wedding vows; they tattooed quotes from this book; some found the bravery to come out to their parents; and some of them were even inspired to write their own novels of pursue a PhD in classics (1).


But you don’t need a PhD to enjoy this book. It’s highly readable and you’ll learn a good deal about Greek mythology even if you don’t know much about the subject. And if you do know a thing or two about Greek myth, it will be like meeting these characters again for the first time. Miller brings the archaic and sometimes-boring world of Homer to life with a literary vivacity this reader is happy to encounter..


Highly recommended.


You can find The Song of Achilles at our library. You can do a search on our catalog, call us at 570-894-8860, or email me at joe@poconolibrary.org to make a request. The Song of Achilles is also available on Hoopla as both an e-book and an audiobook.


Works Cited:


Miller, Madeline. “Madeline Miller on The Song of Achilles: ‘It Helped People Come Out to Their Parents.” Published Aug 27, 2021. Guardian UK website (accessed Jan 27, 2022). https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/aug/27/madeline-miller-on-the-song-of-achilles-it-helped-people-come-out-to-their-parents

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