TITLE: The Song of Achilles
AUTHOR: Madeline Miller
PAGE COUNT: 352 pages
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing
PUBLICATION DATE: 20 September 2011
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology, LGBT, Romance
SYNOPSIS: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.
Everyone on bookstagram has been raving about this book for as long as I have been part of the community. I finally got to it and let me just say, I understand what all the hype is about.
The story had really short chapters and it flowed in such a way that I could easily and quickly get through it. I know nothing about Greek mythology but I do not think you need to know an awful lot to understand what it is about. Sure, the more knowledge you have on the topic, the better and more interesting the story will be to you, but I think the best thing you can do is just dive in.
Madeline Miller wrote the story in such a way that it felt as if you grew up with Achilles and Patroclus, from their childhood until the end. Most of the story was 4.5 stars to me but the ending made me give it 5 stars. I had tears in my eyes and am still thinking about this book, even though I finished it a while ago.
I read this book as a buddy read with Mia from @miasbookblog.
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
“Name one hero who was happy.”
I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back.
“You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I know. They never let you be famous AND happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” He took my palm and held it to his. “Swear it.”
“Because you’re the reason. Swear it.”
“I swear it,” I said, lost in the high color of his cheeks, the flame in his eyes.
“I swear it,” he echoed.
We sat like that a moment, hands touching. He grinned.
“I feel like I could eat the world raw.”
“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”
“When he died, all things soft and beautiful and bright would be buried with him.”
“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”
“I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me.
If I had had words to speak such a thing, I would have. But there were none that seemed big enough for it, to hold that swelling truth.
As if he had heard me, he reached for my hand. I did
not need to look; his fingers were etched into my memory, slender and petal-veined, strong and quick and never wrong.
“Patroclus,” he said. He was always better with words than I.”
“There are no bargains between lion and men. I will kill you and eat you raw.”
“He smiled, and his face was like the sun.”
“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”
“I am made of memories.”
“I have done it,” she says. At first I do not understand. But then I see the tomb, and the marks she has made on the stone. A C H I L L E S, it reads. And beside it, P A T R O C L U S.
“Go,” she says. “He waits for you.”
In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”
“He is half of my soul, as the poets say.”
“This, I say. This and this. The way his hair looked in summer sun. His face when he ran. His eyes, solemn as an owl at lessons. This and this and this. So many moments of happiness, crowding forward.”
“We reached for each other, and I thought of how many nights I had lain awake loving him in silence.”
“We are all there, goddess and mortal and the boy who was both.”
“Patroclus, he says, Patroclus. Patroclus. Over and over until it is sound only.”
“What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another. We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory… We are men only, a brief flare of the torch.”
“Bury us, and mark our names above. Let us be free.”
“Achilles weeps. He cradles me, and will not eat, nor speak a word other than my name.”
“The sorrow was so large it threatened to tear through my skin.”
“He looked different in sleep, beautiful but cold as moonlight. I found myself wishing he would wake so that I might watch the life return.”
“Achilles’ eyes were bright in the firelight, his face drawn sharply by the flickering shadows. I would know is in dark or disguise, told myself. I would know it even in madness.”
“Those seconds, half seconds, that the line of our gaze connected, were the only moment in my day that I felt anything at all.”
Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.
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