The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012)



While I liked Miller’s later book, Circe, a bit better, The Song of Achilles is very good.  This is primarily the story of Patroclus, Achilles’s best friend and lover.  A minor character in The Iliad, Miller wanted to bring his character to light–so he is the narrator of the story. From him, we learn of Achilles’s childhood, his family, his gifts as a warrior, and his passion for Patroclus.  Though much of the information she draws on comes from writings of various Greeks, including Homer’s Iliad, Miller sets the story at Achilles’s birth, rather than starting at the end of the Trojan War as Homer did. The story, however, does end with the culmination of the war and Patroclus’s desire to be buried with Achilles under a tombstone with both of their names.

The paperback version features an interview with Miller in which she discusses her sources, her ideas, and he choices about setting and action–where and how she stands by certain accepted truths in myth and where she chooses her own path.  I found this to be just as interesting as the story itself: her knowledge of the ancient texts and her background in theater have given her the tools to create a compelling story while sticking to the bones of the original myths.  I hope she’s working on something else now that she’s given us insight into the lives of Circe, Patroclus, and Achilles.

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