This is more of a discussion type of review, and to those who haven’t read this book, this first section has no spoilers!
Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
My Rating: 5 STARS + all time favorite book. like ever.
There are no words. I am a mess. I swear to you I have never cried THIS MUCH while reading a book. It was to the point where I was actually hiccupping (you know when you’re crying so much that you CAN’T EVEN FREAKIN BREATHE? my heart hurts just thinking about this book, yet here I am, reliving the pain because I’m writing a review).
This book is heavily based on the greek mythology story we all know, about the hero Achilles. It follows our main character Patroclus who has been cast into exile by his father, in which he meets this boy Achilles. The book follows his relationship with Achilles through the course of many years.
I think that’s all I’m going to say about the non spoilery part of the review. I KNOW IT’S NOT A LOT BUT TRUST ME, it’s a book where you just have to straight up read it (I finished it in less than 2 days!) I don’t want to say anything else regarding the book JUST READ IT! I SWEAR TO YOU THAT YOU WILL LOVE IT. I do however want to point out that there are themes in this book such as rape, sexism, & violence.
Now to the SPOILERS!
So for this review, since everything is so fresh in my mind, I kind of want to rehash everything that happened, and tell you my thoughts as I go along?
Straight up from the beginning, I just knew I was going to fall in love with this book. I was on page 4 and I was just like ‘ash this is it. You’ve finally found the book that’s going to RUIN you.’ ALSO can I just point out that this book was released in 2011?! Why the heck am I only just reading it now?
I AM A HUGE fan of all things greek mythology (is fan the correct word for this?) I’m literally obsessed. Give me anything greek mythology and I will devour it. Do you know how many times I’ve reread Percy Jackson cause goddamn. In the beginning we get to know our main character Patroclus (whose name I still pronounce incorrectly even though the pronunciation is given in the book 1000000 times) who is a very young boy, mistreated and cast away by his father. As per his fathers wishes he contends to be a suitor for the beautiful Helen and that’s where this story kicks off.
The authors writing in the book was stunning. It was not excessively detailed or too simple, but the perfect balance in between. The slight simplicity of it really struck all those powerful quotes home and gave that much of a bigger impact while reading. And it wasn’t difficult to read at all. I was flying through the book because it was so tranquil and the words just glided through your head.
Holy smokes am I the only one who thought Achilles heel would actually play a vital role in the story? I mean isn’t that what everyone associates Achilles with? I was surprised (not in a bad way) to find that the author didn’t choose that path. I was 100% sure there was going to be the whole ‘arrow to the heel’ situation because ACHILLES FEET WERE MENTIONED 24/7. Patroclus must’ve really liked those feet cause that was all this boy talked about.
I adored the beginning of Patroclus and Achilles relationship. It was so pure and innocent, they were adorable little beans eating figs all the freakin time and it was so CUTE. I loved how that childlike factor is evident throughout the entirety of their relationship, even when they are in their later twenties. (sobs bc it could’ve been longer).
One of my favorite parts in this book is their time with Chiron at Mount Pelion. It was a time where they were starting to get older, and beginning to understand/portray their feelings for each other. In a way it was like a safe house. As a reader, I wanted them to stay there forever, where they would be protected and happy, but obviously that couldn’t be the case. It was comforting to completely live their lives just like that, but of course Achilles was destined for greater things.
I really wished that we got to see Chiron one more time. When we said goodbye to him in the earlier chapters, I didn’t think that we actually wouldn’t see him again. Of course, he was repeatedly brought up by Patroclus, and had sent a gift to Achilles, but it still would’ve been nice to see the centaur one more time.
When we find out that Achilles was pretending to be a woman, and had actually married Deidameia, I felt very conflicted. I could feel my heart clenching when we were reading Patroclus reaction to it, but at the same time I felt so bad for Deidameia. She got married to a man who could never be with her, and got pregnant, only to watch her child get ripped away from her after he was born. It showed the ruthlessness of the gods, and it definitely caused my feelings towards Thetis to set in stone.
One thing I still don’t really understand is why the heck did Patroclus sleep with Deidameia? Like I get that he felt bad for her, but shouldn’t you at least try not to make the situation more complicated? I don’t know…I didn’t get that.
I was very surprised at how long the war was. I knew from my own knowledge that the Trojan War lasted quite awhile, but when you’re reading the book, and it tells you that almost nine years have passed, it definitely sets you back a bit. These characters that you were so familiar with in their teenage years, have suddenly become 26-27 years, and I don’t know why my mind still portrayed them as being 16 years old.
I’m glad that Patroclus’ interest in healing actually came to effect during the war. I had completely forgotten that he was interested in it with his time with Chiron, and I’m super glad that he was able to find that part of him again, and make himself useful in the camp. Patroclus is a character that doesn’t have that spark, or that originality that you usually get with a main character in a book, so it was nice to see that he did have many capabilities outside of being the lover of Achilles.
During that ten year period in the war, you could undoubtedly see the change in Achilles character. He becomes cocky and selfish in his ways, completely unlike the boy from the beginning of the book. In my opinion, it was definitely the raids that changed him. But honestly, wouldn’t it change anyone? I mean doing the things they did, attacking civilians who weren’t even part of the whole mess? It was pretty sad reading this from Patroclus’ point of view, since he was watching the man he loved become someone else.
I think this change in Achilles is what really sparked the friendship between Patroclus and Briseis. I absolutely loved reading about them. It was so nice to see Patroclus interacting with others outside of Achilles, that he was actually doing something other than waiting around for Achilles to come back.
My heart broke when we found out about Briseis. I loved her so much as a character, and I was crying so much when she died. The line: “Maybe her gods are kinder than ours,” made me BAWL.
The thing that messed with me the most, was the prophecy. It literally said Hector would die first, then Achilles. It didn’t click in my mind until later that Achilles would kill Hector for killing Patroclus which irked me a bit because I knew I could’ve pieced it together if I thought about it more.
Achilles goddamn honor. My mind constantly keeps going back to how different everything would’ve been if he just helped them. UGH. But of course, then it wouldn’t be the tragic story that it is.
When Patroclus was begging Achilles to go help with the war, oh man guys I was dying. I was so angry at Achilles for not listening, and pissed at Patroclus too, because he should have begged like this long before. And then when Patroclus suggested that he go in Achilles stead, that’s when the whole prophecy thing clicked for me. A little late, but whatever. I was so frustrated and angry and upset my whole kindle screen got all wet with tears lol.
I liked how Patroclus was able to truly fight when he was pretending to be Achilles. It was one of those moments in a book, where the character finally gets that payoff, whether that was in a miraculous way, or in the aid of someone else.
AND THEN THE SADDEST THING EVER HAPPENS.
I was expecting some crazy ass death, where the character feels his last breath and his life flashes before his eyes, BUT NOPE. Madeline Miller wanted me to suffer and Patroclus’ soul was NOT AT PEACE and he was still wandering because nobody was burying him properly and oh my god I was bawling my eyes out. (hello future readers I’m editing this atm aND I’M CRYING AGAIN JUST THINKING ABOUT THIS W H Y).
Achilles reaction to Patroclus’ death got me good. It was so heartbreaking to read about him leaning over his body, weeping constantly. Of how he would bring his body to bed and still lay next to him crying. “If you have to go, I will go with you.” ((there are literally tears streaming down my face right now because I have to go through the ending of the book again, to find those quotes AND I CAN’T HANDLE THE PAIN omg I’m so sad this book ruined me)).
I was crying so hard over the deaths of Patroclus and Achilles, but the fact that Patroclus still wasn’t at peace even when Achilles died was definitely the most heartbreaking part for me. After all the shit these two have been through at least let them be happy.
I don’t even want to discuss Achilles son Neoptolemus because through all the terrible characters in this book, I hated him the most. I legit get angry just thinking about him.
I was glad to get some closure between Thetis and Patroclus. It makes me wonder if Thetis knew more about the prophecy then she was letting on, hence being the reason she hated Patroclus so much. Maybe she knew that his death would lead to the death of her son. At least she got to properly know her son through Patroclus’ memories, even if she was too late. Thetis being the one to write Patroclus’ name on the tomb was such a strong ending scene, as it finally showed her acceptance of Patroclus.
And don’t even get me started on that last paragraph because I AM DONE. This book caused me enough pain as it is. I’m just so happy they got to be together at last.
Thank you guys so much for reading. If you’re still here, after reading this INSANELY long review, you are a real trooper. (Or you just really loved the book and it has nothing to do with me).