Madeline Miller has done something special with this book. She has taken what is one of the oldest stories in Western Civilization and she has made it fresh and exciting.
The Song of Achilles follows Patroclus. Who? Patroclus, a friend, and rumored lover of Achilles, and one could argue the most important character in the Iliad. This is why I think that The Song of Achilles works best if you have a fairly good knowledge of the Iliad; you don’t have to go and read it in the original Greek or anything crazy like that, hell, you can Wiki the thing to get the gist of the who’s and what’s of Homer’s masterpiece. Do you need to do this? No, Miller does a fantastic job of sticking to the story while at the same time giving it a whole new perspective.
I have a soft spot for these retellings of classics. In today’s day and age, the trend is to take the P.O.V. of a “lesser” character; one who was there but not one of the stars. We all know who played Achilles in Troy (the movie version where Sean Bean looks around stunned at the end because, well, he is still alive). But who played Patroclus? It was Garrett Hedlund. Who? Exactly.
I think that these stories work so well because we already know the characters; we know what is going to happen. I didn’t need to get to know anyone, Agamemnon is an old friend who has a history of making bad decisions; Odysseus is a crafty little bugger. This familiarity allows the reader to get into the story much faster than with new characters.
The knowledge of the events allows Miller’s use of foreshadowing to shine. I had so many “I love that you did that” moments. Despite knowing the story, Miller’s finesse and flair kept me riveted to her story. She has a gift for taking something old and making it new again.
If you’re a fan of the classics, you will want to read The Song of Achilles; if you’ve never heard of Ilium, but enjoy a fabulous tale, you should allow Madeline Miller to introduce you to a story that has certainly stood the test of time.
2 Book Lovers Reviews