This is the story of Achilles and his companion Patroclus. Companion here should absolutely be read in the way that we all had that one uncle in his 80s and 90s who lived with a roommate. If you remember any part of your high school English classes, you probably know the over all plot. Trojan War, fated warrior, death, destruction, etc.
What Madeline Miller has done in this book is really taken a deeper dive into the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Which, by the way, is super gay. They were gay, y’all. Get into it. Miller spins tales of Patroclus’ upbringing, early youthful days with Achilles, and what their relationship was like during the Trojan War. She gives life to characters that were not the focus in the classics while still maintaining the classics. And I appreciated the tenderness and reality she wrote into the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. She didn’t write with rose colored glasses. They had highs and lows, agreements and disagreements, but they always had their love, too.
Unfortunately, I found myself not really caring about the main characters. I was much more interested in the characters that Miller casts as secondary: Thetis, Deidameia, and Briseis. I think this is where The Song of Achilles falters some compared to Miller’s other notable work, Circe: Miller picked the wrong characters to focus on. Give me the book about Thetis plotting and scheming in her realm watching her son throw his life away on a boy. Give me the story of Briseis being thrust into a culture as a captive and finding the strength and ingenuity to not only survive but thrive. Give the story of what happened between Deidameia and Thetis that could have resulted in such a horrible son Pyrrhus.