“He is half of my soul, as the poets say.”
I was not ready for this book. I was not ready for the tsunami of feels and the overwhelming need to climb inside it and pull these characters out, wrap them in bubble wrap and just protect them against everything. Honestly, where has this been ALL MY LIFE?! Now, I’m fully aware that this was published in 2011, so it’s not technically all my life but it sure feels like it. The Song of Achilles is Madeline Miller’s retelling of the Trojan war, focused on Patroclus and Achilles. The story is a well-known one so even though I knew the ending, it still took me by surprise and it still ripped my heart out.
“Name one hero who was happy.”
I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back.
“You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I know. They never let you be famous AND happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” He took my palm and held it to his. “Swear it.”
“Because you’re the reason. Swear it.”
“I swear it,” I said, lost in the high color of his cheeks, the flame in his eyes.
“I swear it,” he echoed.
We sat like that a moment, hands touching. He grinned.
“I feel like I could eat the world raw.”
The Song of Achilles starts with Patroclus, when he accidentally caused a boy to fall and die of head injury, his father the King exiled him. Now, in a new court, he befriends Achilles and the two soon become very close. The book spans a few decades as the boys grow; there’s a plethora of characters mentioned in each important phase of their lives. From life in court as children, to their training with Chiron as young adults, to finally the endless Trojan war, each secondary character, from mortal to God, from servant to every King mentioned during the war of Troy, their personalities and the way they were written all added something to the story. I never get a chance to read mythology to this extend, rich details and amazing characterization with small twists to fit this retelling, everything I grew up with were there, just from a different perspective.
“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”
Patroclus and Achilles from the first page became an instant favorite. This is a slow burn with very little romance, don’t expect them to have heart to heart conversations or long make out sessions; this was history told from another point of view with a twist to bring these characters together. With barely 350 pages, this felt like twice the size, every chapter was so well written, with decades of history and countless characters fit into a single book without it ever getting boring or too much, it was so well-balanced. What I struggled with at first was the writing style, Miller used very short sentences which at first pissed me off but after the first couple of chapters I barely even noticed it, the words just flew by.
“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”
I don’t want to get into details about Patroclus and Achilles, the story is out there so that’s inevitable, what these two go through to get there… I can’t even put that into words, a book that includes so little romance and it yet it delivered a lot of my favorite romantic moments of the year. And that ending? The way Miller used her characters to the end, it broke me, it seriously broke it beyond repair. I need to take a mini break to let this sink in, the awesomeness that was this book, I can’t get over that. I don’t want to get over that.
“When I am dead, I charge you to mingle our ashes and bury us together.”