As one of my favourite childhood books was The Legends of Olympus – a collection of stories about the gods and heroes of Greek myths – it’s no wonder I was very keen on reading The Song of Achilles. It was also very convenient that I was able to borrow the book from Bookster.

The Song of Achilles in a nutshell

The book tells the story of the friendship between Achilles (the son of a goddess and a king) and Patroclus, his closest friend. The story is narrated from Patroclus’ point of view and it covers events for almost the entirety of their lives, including the famous Trojan war.

song of achilles book cover readers high tea

Overall impression

I enjoyed a lot reading “The Song of Achilles”, it is a book that keeps you turning page after page without feeling the passing of time. Beautifully written, it touches on a wide range of topics, from love to family, revenge, and leadership. What intrigued me most about the story were the writer’s inspiration and the topic of the heel – yes, I refer to Achilles’ heel 🙂

The inspiration for The Song of Achilles

Miller started from a gap in Achilles’ story and imagined a possible reason for his behaviour. According to the Iliad, Achilles was very moved by the death of Patroclus, without any explanation given by the Greek poem. That’s where the writer started to fill in the gap and created the story of the special friendship between Achilles and Patroclus.

This approach reminded me of another book that fills a gap – Girl with Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (my review).

song of achilles merildae
Image from Tumblr/Merildae

The heel of Achilles

From the moment I started the book I was expecting to read about Achilles’ vulnerable heel. Imagine my surprise when I reached the final page of the book and the heel was not even mentioned!

My confusion was quickly solved by the writer herself, who explained on her website that the story of the heel is actually quite recent compared to the Iliad and Odyssey. Since the two Homeric poems were the main source of inspiration, she chose to follow their interpretation regarding Achilles’ invincibility: “he wasn’t really invincible, just extraordinarily gifted in battle”.

Wrap-up

“The Song of Achilles” tells the story of the special friendship between two men who are fighting not only against their human circumstances, but also against their fate. I recommend reading it if you’re looking for a page-turner (who doesn’t?!) or if (Greek) myths are your cup of tea.

Further reading

Needless to say, I plan to read “Circe” soon, the second Greek-inspired book written by Madeline Miller. Have you read any of Miller’s books? I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts about them!

‘Till next time … happy reading!

Georgiana


Images from Amazon.com | Merildae.Tumblr.com |

6 thoughts on “From Homeric poems to a myth retold: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (book review)

  1. I absolutely adore The Song of Achilles, it’s one of my favorite books! And I just finished reading Circe today. Although I don’t love it as much, it’s still certainly incredibly interesting and beautifully written, though I think these two books transmit very different feelings – to me, at least, and possibly why I didn’t love Circe. But I still recommend you read it, there are a plethora of interesting characters from lots of myths and I love reading from her perspective.

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    1. Thanks a lot for the recommendation, Rafaela! I’m certainly going to read Circe, I’m really curious now 🙂 Miller has indeed a very beautiful writing style that definitely keeps you hooked on the story!

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