In anticipation of Madeline Miller’s new novel, Circe, being released (it just arrived in the mail!) I decided to do a reread of The Song of Achilles, which was one of my favorite reads from the past couple of years. And I will say, it was just as good the second time around, if not a little more painful in seeing more of the foreshadowing and understanding the deeper meaning of certain lines earlier in the novel before the course of action takes place. Okay, I know that the overall plot is pretty well established and known already, but this is a little bit of a different telling of the old myths of Achilles at the end of the day.
The Song of Achilles is essentially the story of the Greek hero Achilles/The Iliad as told from the point of view of Achilles’ closest companion, Patroclus; Patroclus is an exiled prince taken in by Achilles’ father as a child, and the two young Princes soon become close companions, growing up together and finding how deep their feelings for one another are. Eventually, however, the two must face their fated roles within the great Trojan War.
This is a story that is known by many, but with a particular point of view and interpretation: unlike a lot of modern interpretations of the myths I have personally seen, The Song of Achilles’ main point is not to focus is not on the grit, violence, and bravado of the Trojan War and Achilles (though this does indeed play a significant part), but on the relationships that bind us together and how they shape us. It is a more gentle retelling that relies on human aspects of love, loyalty, and showing how people grow and change over time and circumstance. And one of the strongest things that this novel sports is Miller’s strong sense of writing: it is poetic and beautiful, and glides along easily.
The Song of Achilles is one that when I first read, made me pause and hold close to my heart for a long while. Although I was more familiar this time through, my love for it didn’t diminish, and I still feel it like a soft lingering kiss on the cheek.