Miller masterfully takes a well-known yet fantastical tale that is larger than life and enhances it tenfold by humanizing its characters (gods, demigods, men, and women), gifting them thoughts and emotions that we as readers can relate to on a deeper level. She injects her story with such poignancy that I couldn’t help but be moved by the characters and their connection to one another.
The writing is clear and crisp, lyrical in its simplicity and powerful in its golden imagery. Miller takes great care in transporting her readers to a time long gone by engaging all five our senses, offering us an array of dazzling visuals marked by sweet scents and potent tastes and sounds. And while the style of writing is notable in of itself, it is the author’s careful portrayal of character that is the most remarkable.
The entire story is one of reflection, a story that has already passed and is now being recalled by Patroclus, and so we are only privy to his thoughts and feelings and his alone. Despite his weaker status and sweeter disposition, Patroclus proves to be a very observant narrator and courageous character. And through him and his experiences and observations of his surroundings and the people he interacts with, we become familiar with Achilles.
In Patroclus’s eyes, we see a caring and ambitious young Achilles, a demigod prophesied to be the victor over Hector and a hero of The Trojan War; though, Hector’s death has its consequences. Miller does a wonderful job in staying faithful to the original storyline while adding a bit more dimensions to the characters. And her interpretation of Achilles proves to be complex as we aren’t certain whether to accept him for his confidence/pride or to dislike him for it. Either way, both Patroclus and Achilles are both painted as humans, entirely filled with fault and imperfections as well as love and kindness, and hate and sadness.
The connection between Patroclus and Achilles is pure and strong, a bond that stretches through the years. Their relationship is decidedly one of the most important and touching aspects of the entire book. In more ways than one, their bond is the foundation of the story as both characters fear for the other and love one another despite what others may say about them.
Miller excellently displays their love and how it builds up over time, from their youth to their adulthood. For those of us familiar with The Illiad, we know how their story ends. And while Miller had the opportunity to leave it as is, she shared a conclusion that was a bit more compassionate to its characters, bringing in an extra level of light where there could have been darkness. The story is a tragedy, but not in the traditional sense.
Read this book. It’ll break your heart, but for all the right reasons.
"And as we swam, or played, or talked, a feeling would come. It was almost like fear, in the way it filled me, rising in my chest. It was almost like tears, in how swiftly it came. But it was neither of those, buoyant where they were heavy, bright where they were dull."
I'm not crying, just drowning in my own tears. I tought it wouldn't happen considering that this book is a retelling, and I'm not that huge fan of this genre. And yet since the first chapter I was already hooked, madly in love with a couple that hadn't been born yet. I delighted witnessing Achilles and Patroclus grow up and fall in love, and I suffered with them during the hard times. Suffered a lot.
I knew how it would end since I studied the Iliad at school, but while reading I was in a state of complete denial even as I reached the "worst" part of the story. I still hoped that things would turn another way, but I ended up weeping anyway.
What I probably enjoyed the most (apart of the adorable and sweet romance between Achilles and Patroclus of course!) was without any doubt the stunning character development. It really left me speechless seeing how Patroclus transformed from a weak, envious and scared boy into a decisive, corageous, skillful and strong man. Even more striking was Achilles' evolution. At the end I was totally in love with him, therefore I was really heartbroken to witness how war and research of glory changed him in worse. But the final blow was seeing what grief did to him.
And though I'm aware that the original work is of course different from this retelling, I can't help but thinking that from now on I will look at the Iliad from another point of view. Not just an old, boring story in verses, but something living, almost real. All this thanks to the smooth, delicate Madeline Miller's style that managed to make modern a story belonging to such a far culture and history, giving a face and a voice to the characters and making them impossible not to love....Continua
La canzone di Achille è stata la mia lettura principale di agosto: portata avanti tra i miei vari spostamenti vacanzieri, mi ha dato una strana dimensione locale, un aura di partecipazione agli eventi che solo le avventure epiche sanno conferire. Ciò detto, questa è un'intimizzazione e una youngadultizzazione della storia di Achille e Patroclo, narrata da quest'ultimo in prima persona, con uno stile molto semplice e vagamente ruffiano (cerca di strappare lacrime a più riprese) e trasforma in un clima un po' da soap quelle che nell'immaginario comune (e nella realtà epica) erano innanzitutto delle rudi questioni d'onore tipicamente maschili. Sinceramente non mi sono mai trovata ad ipotizzare che la relazione tra Achille e Patroclo avesse un profilo così smielato: i legami tra uomini nell'antica grecia avevano un profilo molto più ruvido, più "poche ciance". Detto ciò, è una scelta ed è portata avanti con coerenza e con avvincente convinzione fino alla fine. Fosse stato pubblicato come young adult, probabilmente potrebbe qualificarsi come un piccolo capolavoro del genere, ma come romanzo per tutte le fasce d'età perde smalto appunto per mancanza di spontaneità e esubero di buoni sentimenti, specie per una vicenda guerresca cruenta ed epica come la storia dell'Iliade. Ottimamente tratteggiato il personaggio di Odisseo, che è sempre il mio preferito. 3 stelle e 1/2...Continua
Tra dei e dee, ninfe e centauri, semidei e miti vari, raccontati con tale naturalezza da renderli persino plausibili, si finisce con l'affezionarsi a questo Achille, invincibile eroe dall'animo tenero e cortese e del suo compagno Patroclo, "pacifista" antelitteram,costretto, suo malgrado, a scendere nell'agone per amore. Una rivisitazione storica per dirci che Giovinezza e Amore sono i soli "dei" attorno a cui da sempre tutto ruota e ci lascia ancora una volta lì a riflettere se sia meglio vivere un giorno d'amore o cent'anni di rassegnazione....Continua
Here is my comment in my Spanish Blog: http://lunairereadings.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-song-of-achilles-by-madeline-miller.html
In this novel Madeline Miller describes the evolution of the loving friendship between Achiles and Patroclus. We listen to Patroclus telling us how he met Achiles, how he shared a lot of things with him, how he met his mother (a godess), and how he has developed such a deep love to his friend that he was eager to give up his life for him. We also learn how deeply Achiles loved Patroculs and how beautiful that kind of fraternal love is. It also has very vivid and defined scenes of battles and wars, and some great romantic scenes. I really enjoyed it.