I have always loved ancient myths, I read every book of myths from every single part of the world I could get my hands on as a kid. Being that I grew up in the Western World this mostly meant Greek Myths. While I could find a couple Chinese, and Korean, and Indian myth books in my local libraries, and there were several on Norse and Celtic mythology as well, all of these were far outnumbered by the books of Greek and Roman myths and the Epic poems. I read the Odyssey when I was about 12. I re-read it when I was 15 and actually understood most of it. I then read the Iliad. I reread that when I was 20 and actually understood most of it. Overall, I find the Iliad boring and way too macho chest-bumping for my taste, more so even than most of the rest of Greek literature which is, overall, a pretty bro-tastic genre at the best of times. That said, Achilles and Hector were both always very intriguing to me. Achilles became especially interesting after Patroclus, the man who was, quite clearly, his lover, dies. Both times I read it the two of them would pop up and I would hold off on giving up on the book until that section was over… then I’d keep going to see if they’d pop up again.
The Song of Achilles is pretty much what I wanted the Iliad to be, only even more so. Madeline Miller took the Iliad, along with the other Greek works surrounding the life of Achilles and turned them into this beautiful story of his life told by his true love, Patroclus. This book just made me happy. I can’t even say that this is a tragic book, even though both of them die in the war (Sorry, I’m not putting a spoiler tag on a 2700-year-old plot point.). I was so happy when this book ended, it is a truly heartfelt love story from beginning to end and the war and the politics and the whims of the Gods are just sort of things the lovers have happening while they are living their lives together.
I don’t even really have much more to say about this story than that. Patroclus is such a well rendered character I felt almost like I was listening to a friend tell me about his husband rather than reading a novel. He’s kind, smart, and sensitive, and doesn’t see just how great he is. I just wanted to give him a big hug. Achilles, who is a mythic hero, the son of a man and a goddess, has to be a little too perfect, that is the nature of being a Hero. That can be hard to create without either making him a giant, arrogant ass or just two-dimensional and boring. Here you have a man who, while filling that role, is also flawed in very lovable ways. That perfectness is, in it’s way, a flaw of it’s own that makes him even more human.
I’m really looking forward to picking up Circe in the next few months, given what she was able to do with an often sidelined figure like Patroclus, I’m really excited to see what she can do with a woman you know has only been seen in her least flattering light.
I’m using this book for my CBR10 Bingo Dream Vacation square.
As a woman, I don’t really want to go to Ancient Green and hang out in, say Athens, but if I could go on a luxury glamping trip in the pre-European forests of the Greek Isles? Sign me up. Y’all did say DREAM vacation, after all.