Book Review: Song of Achilles


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the story of Patroclus and Achilles, featured and most well-known because of their involvement in The Iliad by Homer. However, Miller tells the story from the beginning, drawing from different myths as well as taking certain creative liberties. The most noticeable difference between the story of The Iliad and Patroclus and Achilles, depending on which school of thought you conform to and which translation you’ve read is Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship as a couple as opposed to close friends, which has been a source of disagreement since ancient times.

The book is incredibly well-written. It is able to cover many years without being long and boring. It was a quick read for me, mostly however because I couldn’t manage to put it down. It is even more heartbreaking because the end of the story is already widely known. I don’t usually cry after reading a book, but this one, even though I already know the story I couldn’t help but cry. There is an incredibly well done and present sense of unavoidability. Miller does not sacrifice the original myths and stories for the sake of fiction, which I do appreciate. -Spoiler- However, I was not pleased with the liberty she took to cause conflict between Achilles’ mother, Thetis and Patroclus. Thetis is portrayed as disliking Patroclus and the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. However, in the myths she is fond of Patroclus and mourns his death alongside Achilles. Miller has created the conflict of homophobia, where I don’t think it was necessary. -Spoiler over- If you don’t want the story spoiled for yourself it is still a fantastic read without previous knowledge on the myth of Achilles and Patroclus, however the additional knowledge does help to clear up certain happenings and characters within the story. If you don’t seek to learn about the myth beforehand, I would suggest reading a little bit about it after you’ve finished the book.