This isn’t going to be a long review. Sometimes I read books and I just want to sit with them and not talk about them at all. This book felt like that, like a little gift I’d been given and I just want to keep it to myself for a while.
But I haven’t been behind in reviews at all in 2018 and I want to keep it that way. I’m so proud of my little self. So I will try to bust something out.
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of The Iliad from Patroclus’ perspective, and Miller takes the hints in the original texts and other historical sources that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers and runs with it. It won a bunch of awards and was given many stellar reviews when it was published six years ago, but I am always behind the times, so I’m only reading it now. It’s not the best and most favorite book I’ve read, but I really liked it a lot.
I think there’s a lot to be found here in Miller’s modern retelling. Patroclus is an unreliable narrator in many ways, but Miller still manages to fit in critiques of war and the kind of culture that glorifies the beauty of killing. Patroclus spends practically the entire book writing a love-ode to the half-God, and yet Achilles’s beautiful, perfect form is used only for killing. Miller very deliberately puts those two things side by side. I also liked the way that Patroclus as a character informed on Achilles and his unthinking existence. He’s the best and the most beautiful, and while he’s kindhearted and good, he also has an unbelievably skewed perspective on life. There’s definitely some patriarchy skewering going on here as well (Patroclus is not even close to the Greek ideal of what a man or son was).
This is a tragedy that feels very grounded. There’s this lovely mix of historical realism and mythology in Miller’s style that I really dug. You know how it ends the whole time, and there are moments of poignance, but it never descends into melodrama, which makes it all the more affecting for me.
All right, I’ve wrung enough words out of myself. Maybe if I re-read I will write a better review someday.