This book has been on my radar for years, but I didn’t get around to reading it until my 8th grader selected it as her summer reading book. Instead of being disappointed in myself at having waited for so long to read this masterpiece, I’m going to focus on the positive and tell you that it was absolutely worth waiting for.
The Song of Achilles is a glorious retelling of the Greek legend, but instead of the hero himself sharing his exploits, the narrative unfolds from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ childhood friend who later becomes his lover. They first meet as boys, and Achilles takes Patroclus under his wing, setting him apart from the other boys as his boon companion. Patroclus accompanies Achilles to Mount Pelion, and lessons with Chiron the centaur, which is where their friendship begins to shift into a physical relationship. Eventually, the call to war sounds and Patroclus accompanies Achilles to Troy, where the Greeks lay siege to the city-state in their attempt to recapture Helen, who absconded with the Trojan Prince Paris.
If you’re familiar with Greek mythology, then you’ll know Achilles’ fate. Because of the nature of Fate, Patroclus and Achilles are also aware of Achilles’ fate years before it happens. Patroclus is not aware of his own role in the foretold prophecy until it happens, and it can be argued that even afterwards, he does not fully realize the import.
Although the source material is an epic poem, Miller opts for prose and does such justice to the original with carefully planned word choice and cadence. This should not come as a surprise; Miller is a Classics scholar and this contribution is the result of years of study.
I would absolutely recommend The Song of Achilles. Even though it absolutely devastated me, I’m grateful for the experience. This is one of the rare books that I own three different versions of: physical copy, a kindle version, and the audiobook. On that note, I should add that Frazer Douglas does a wonderful job with the narration. This has quickly earned a place in my top 10 favorite books, and I know it’ll eventually become one of my most re-read books.