Review – The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

11250317Today, we’re going to be travelling back a few thousand years! Don’t worry, you won’t need your passport! Now, we all know, or at least have heard of, the classical Greek stories of Achilles, the Trojan War, Helen of Troy etc etc… However, as with any great myth or story, we rarely hear the precursor; what happened before the events to these people? Particularly, what force, passion, emotion, inspired Achilles to step up and continue fighting (readers of Homer’s Iliad will know that Achilles refused to fight after his slave was taken away)? I don’t want to spoil anything, as even if you already know the whole story of the Iliad, this is a fresh take, so the raw power of the story will take your breath away.
Miller takes us on an adventure (I purposely use that word because that’s exactly how this books reads, as an adventure) exploring the early years of Achilles and his friend, Patroclus. They are brought up together in the same house and received much of the same education and training. Over the years we experience their bond strengthening and later events make much more sense.
Again, I just want to make a point of mentioning that my lexical choice of “experience” and “adventure”, is really not an accident. Miller’s writing allows us to “be in the moment” and to really feel for these characters, because we have been on the same journey as them. We’ve essentially experienced what they’ve experienced. Now, I know that sounds incredibly corny, but it’s the only way I can describe it. Miller’s style of writing is sparse, complex, simple, detailed, lyrical, poignant and mythical. All this coming in a debut novel is extremely rare. I suppose it helps that Miller has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Ancient Greek and Latin languages as well as Classical studies. That urge to know more, and be inspired by the texts in their original languages, and have the academic ability and opportunity to really research your subject, is a real credit to Miller, along with her seemingly innate ability to write a damn good story!
I really cannot recommend this novel enough. A solid read, and for those of you that dislike lengthy novels, one t that packs such a punch in just over 400 pages – got to be worth a read!

Pegasus (and no, I did not consult on this novel!)

The Song of Achilles: A Novel