One of my students suggested this book a few weeks ago, and I always try to take their recommendations seriously. Most of the time I’m disappointed, or their tastes just aren’t mine, but this one was an absolute winner. The Song of Achilles is one of the most poignant and beautiful novels I’ve read in a long time.
Miller’s adaption of the Illiad is told from Patroclus’ point-of-view, and follows his relationship with Achilles from their boyhood meeting when Patroclus is banished to Phthia for accidentally killing a noble’s son all the way through to their epic conclusion in the Trojan War. Patroclus is immediately enthralled with Achilles, and as they pass each other in the [Phthia palace, Patroclus realizes the feeling is mutual. Achilles selects him as his personal companion, and while Achille’s goddess-mother, Thetis, hates Patroclus, the two refuse to be separated. Even as Thetis sends Achilles to Greece’s high mountains to train under the Centaur, Chiron, and then to the Island of Scyros to hide him from the Trojan war, Patroclus follows. Their relationship matures while in Chiron’s care, and the two embark on a love story for the literal ages.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the ‘realness’ of the relationship between these two characters. They always love each other, but Patroclus is very honest about Achilles’ nature. They struggle with jealousy when Thetis forces Achilles to take a female lover, and later when Patroclus has feelings for a Trojan slave girl. They argue and disagree, and sometimes annoy one another with their personalities, but the level of mutual respect and regard Patroclus and Achilles have for each other is so palpable that it almost jumps off the page, making the end of the epic even more devastating that it naturally is.
Miller’s deep understanding of Greek myth also brings this book to vivid life. I know next to nothing about Greek mythology, and actually had to look up which myth she was adapting, but I was thoroughly immersed in this story both culturally and via character. I don’t say this often, but I would put this book in my top 10 read-again stories. It’s worth the time.