The Song of Achilles (and Patroclus) – Madeline Miller


You go a whole life, in my case, 24 long years having heard of Greek tragedies and in essence you know there is absolutely no silver lining to this cloud yet you persevere, you wail and read it because, to not have read it is worse. 

“I am made of memories.”  
― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles 

I foolishly assumed that taking a while before writing this review will stem the anguish or even the tears I had shed over these two. Clearly, I was wrong because when I re-read parts of it to remember what I had to say – it got to me, as I now know, it always will. That’s a mark of a great book, which does not let go of its hold on you.  

“Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. “No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from.”  
― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles 

The Song of Achilles is written by the extremely capable Madeline Miller, who is also the author of Circe which I have reviewed earlier. I cannot thank her enough for the way in which she brings these gods, goddesses, demigods and faulty humans alive. If not for her introduction to Greek mythology, I would not have found myself devouring each book I can get my hands on this genre.  

The story is told from the POV of Patroclus, Achilles companion, and honestly the one you end up rejoicing. I know history speaks of Patroclus because of who he is to the great warrior, Achilles. But somehow through reading the book it just didn’t sit right with me that only Achilles’s name was emblazoned on the cover and not Patroclus. This too, I attribute to the exquisite writing of Miller, which makes you adore both the characters for who they are. I will keep waxing poetry over them but I also have to bring to fore the characters of Chiron, who I wish existed in today’s world and Briesis, gentle as her love for Patroclus. 

“He is half of my soul, as the poets say.”  
― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles 

The journey of Achilles and Patroclus is defined as much by their love for each other as it is by the differences of who they are. The old age debate of healer vs warrior becomes a story arc that you carefully start associating and understanding to their actions and way of being. So, it is no surprise when Achilles bows to hubris and Patroclus wars to save Achilles from himself. But, in the end when Achilles’s son chooses not to honour his father’s last wish of being freed from life with Patroclus, you realise that the Trojan war can come to an end, a mother’s disdain can come to an end, a Greek tragedy can mean thousands of deaths but what reigns is their love. 

That in their own ways, they were fiercely protective of each other. 

“That is — your friend?”  
“Philtatos,” Achilles replied, sharply. Most beloved.”  
― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles 

You will not regret the time you spend reading this book, I urge you to pick this up, it is on my top 3 of all the books I’ve read so far in 2019. Go make a great readers decision and read Greek mythology in the way Madeline Miller intended it be read.