REVIEW: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller’s 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction award winning novel offers a new perspective on Achilles’s story.

Filled with passion, drama and tragedy, Madeline Miller faithfully retells this classic story of Achilles and the battle of Troy but adds a contemporary twist by focusing on the close relationship this fierce and proud fighter had with his companion Patroclus.

Told from the perspective of Patroclus, The Song of Achilles is filled with vibrant and rich detail, told through poetic and engaging language that flows easily from page to page. Every description- even of the horror of war – has been carefully thought through, drawing the reader in beautifully into this wonderful and tender love story that ultimately ends in tragedy.

One highlight section of the story is when Patroclus and Achilles stay with Chiron and learn all sorts of skills while growing up and discovering the depth of their affection for each other. Miller’s writing in this section alone is tender and imaginative, enhancing the mythical quality of Achilles life and story perfectly.

As with her recent novel Circe, Madeline Miller is able to find a different side to the central character, offering new insight into their actions and their flaws. In Achilles case, it is his pride and anger that are ultimately his downfall particularly in the light of the death of his beloved companion. It explodes out of him like a volcano, terrifying those around him and his actions towards Hector after he kills him reveals the extent of his grief powerfully.

From start to finish, Miller creates and eerie and spiritual atmosphere enhanced by the prophecy relating to Achilles that hangs over his life, while references to the Greek Gods and rituals keep the story rooted in Greek mythology. It is clear that Miller has carried a lot of research in order to create this immensely moving story.

Powerful, tender and immensely tragic, The Song of Achilles is the perfect read if you enjoy Greek mythology.

By Emma Clarendon

The Song of Achilles is available to buy now.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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