Rambling about books

Book review: The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

Book cover from Goodreads

And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.

A retelling of The Iliad by Homer. Written through the perspective of Patroclus, a companion of Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War. The story goes from Patroclus’ childhood, all the way through his exile to Achilles’ kingdom, Achilles’ training with Chiron, and up until the Trojan War. This is, in my opinion, a story of loyalty, sacrifice, love, coming of age, and of dedication. 

I picked up the book as a friend of mine suggest it to me. She knew that I have an interest in Greek mythology and knowing that I might be too lazy to actually picked up The Iliad, she thought maybe I could give this book a try. Truth of the matter is, I’ve seen this book reviewed and raved quite often throughout Goodreads and Tumblr and what have you, and clearly I don’t have an interest in giving this book a try, but after some suggestion from a friend, I guess there was no harm in trying. Right?

Honestly, I am still debating on whether or not I found this book to be heart-wrenching or just plain annoying. For the first half of the book, I kept on thinking that this looks like a lazy writing to me. Patroclus was just annoying, and he sounded a lot like a whiny 12-year olds. Anything Patroclus said was just either cringe-worthy or downright annoying. Really, I almost gave up in reading this book, but then again, I’m not a quitter, so I march on.

There were more than enough moments where I just got tired of Patroclus whining and his jet stream of thoughts and, really, I wished I could just tell him to shut up. This gets even more hard for me when there were parts in the book where I feel like I’m reading some smut fanfiction. Look, there’s nothing wrong with fanfiction or smut fanfiction, but I just didn’t expect to find it in a retelling of The Iliad. Really, at that point, I was inching closer to giving up the book, what with Patroclus’ strings of whining and complaining, and the writing that seems to me like a sexual release of someone who has too much of a vivid imagination of how sex works between their favourite literary characters.

But, here’s the thing I’ve been waiting for, the story gets better. And it really did get better. I don’t know if it’s because they are finally in Troy that things got interesting, what with all the preparation for war and the tension amongst the Kings on the Greek’s camp. Or maybe things finally seems interesting for me because now Patroclus is older, that he finally is not that whiny 12-year old anymore, now that he finally is older and therefore his outlook and his storytelling gets better as he age. Whatever that might be, finally the story gets interesting!

Sure, there were times where I still found myself rolling my eyes every time there was a mention of Achilles by Patroclus, but the story and Patroclus’ observation of the Trojan War was worth all the eye-rolling I did. The dynamics between Patroclus and Achilles was interesting to read, and his observation of how Achilles’ feeling towards his altercation with Agamemnon was also interesting. Here we can see an up close observation of Achilles’ decision on not going into battle with the rest of the army, the reasons behind it, his pride, his fear, it was laid bare and explained thoroughly by Patroclus.

Most of all, what I enjoyed the most was the surprising turn of events when Patroclus died in the hands of Hector (surely, this does not count as a spoiler, right? Surely you all know about the Trojan War, right?) I clearly didn’t expect the turn of events to be somewhat dark, gripping, intense, and (this is where my confusion happened) heart-wrenching. You would think that the story would end with Achilles breaking down over the loss of Patroclus and went on a crazy revenge spree for Hector, but even after the death of Hector in the hands of Achilles and the eventual death of Achilles himself in the hands of Paris (again, this should not count as a spoiler, right? Surely you know all about this, right?), that heart-wrenching pain lingers.

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I am in for a surprise from this book. I thought I was going to hate this book (I even had drafted a rant over how annoying this book was) but then when the book did ends, all that was left of me was emptiness. I was surprisingly saddened by the ending, might I add it was actually a beautiful ending (pay attention, I said beautiful not happy, it’s two different things). I didn’t expect that a book that start off as annoying and rocky for me, can end it in such a high note. I was incredibly sad when Patroclus, Achilles and Briseis died. I think I might want to pick up The Iliad for real now, just to see would I have been as sad as I read this book.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️☆☆

Title: The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance

Goodreads link

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