A Particular Greek Hero and His Companion

Unlike several books I read recently, this certain novel has been sitting in the back of my mind for a long time, waiting for me to finally give in and give the book a try. The Song of Achilles is a retelling of a famous story The Illiad which I have never read before. I like history, and Greek mythology has always been very fascinating to me. But I don’t have an in-depth knowledge on it and except from snatches of information I found from movies and the Percy Jackson series.

I don’t really know what drew me into reading the book. Maybe because it was chosen as a group read for my Book Club, or because it was quite famous on the internet. But I read the summary of the Iliad before I started reading it and I sort of knew what I was going to get in the novel.

Well it was definitely different from what I expected.

The Song of Achilles tells a story about a very famous Greek hero, Achilles. He’s rich, he’s a half-god, he’s a prince, he was skilled in everything from combat to music, he was born for fame and glory. And yet he chooses to befriend a cast-away, a skinny boy whom no one knows about, Patroclus. They became good friends and the rest, well, you know what happens next.

This book was written beautifully. I have come to realise after a while that I love these kinds of writing styles – some people might find them boring and make the story slow, but I really like it. I love how Madeline Miller forms the sentences, describes the characters and the atmosphere of each scene through Patroclus’s eyes.

I loved Patroclus more than Achilles in this story. I don’t really know if it’s because we actually read the story from Patroclus’s point of view, or maybe because I didn’t really connect to Achilles as much as I did with Patroclus, but I really liked him. I thought they were both very good characters – not very fleshed out as it could’ve been, but enough to make the other characters feel like a blur. These two make other characters seem unnecessary, and really shows that in the end, the story is really just about them.

And I absolutely adore their relationship. I loved how they cared for each other but the thing that gets me the most is how they complement each other. And looking at it through Patroclus’s eyes, I would partly think that Patroclus glorifies Achilles too much. In his eyes it feels like Patroclus is really no one who has no deeming qualities whatsoever and Achilles is the hero, both the hero of the story, the hero of the Trojan war, and the hero to Patroclus.

But in the end, for me, thinking about how in his last seconds of life Patroclus thought of only Achilles, the hero wasn’t Achilles. It was Patroclus, with his soft heart and his kindness for people, not just for his dear friend Achilles but also others. It was the sidekick, not the person singers wrote about in the songs. He wasn’t mentioned very much in the songs or the history, his name was merely carved on the stone next to Achilles’s. But Patroclus’s name was etched deep in Achilles’s heart and also in mine. And for me, he was the hero of the story.

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year Published: September 2011
Num of Pages: 416 pages
Date read: September 2015

4 stars

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8 comments

  1. This is one of my favorite books! I agree that Patroclus doesn’t paint himself in a very kind light, but Achilles is one of the few people that sees him for what he is. That’s what I love most about their relationship, that they both see the best in each other.

    Liked by 1 person

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