The Song of Achilles

This year, one of things I wanted to do more is to read. Specifically, read novels. For the past three years or so, I did read but the materials are mostly for the academe: educational materials, lesson plans, course syllabus, and the likes. I wanted to go back to reading fiction: the charismatic characters that you draw you in, the setting that provides the perfect backdrop for the story, the intriguing plot points that move the story forward, the twists you never see coming, and the smell of paper as you flip the pages when you’re done reading them.  I missed reading fiction, and being consumed by it. So, I decided to go back.

The last fictional book I read was The Perks of Being a Wallflower. That book left me depressed for weeks that I can’t even read other books until I totally gave up on reading fiction altogether. Aside from Chbosky’s book, I also have read the seven Harry Potter books, the three Hogwarts Library books, the seven Narnia books, Bob Ong books, and more I haven’t finish yet. It’s a struggle to finish a book when you have so many in your to read list.

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The first book I read after my book reading sabbatical is The Song of Achilles. After looking for a great title from suggestions in different forums, I decided to try TSOA. Readers are actually raving about it, and its score in Goodreads is not bad either. The thing that did draw me in into reading the book is the story itself. I love Greek mythology. I love the story of the Trojan War. Having had read Iliad, some parts only, during high school, I thought this is an easy choice to make. I even remember reading Greek Mythology stories because I found the Greek folklore fascinating, and well thought – out.

This post is not a review of The Song of Achilles. I just want to share my thoughts regarding my experience reading the said novel.

About the Author:
Madeline Miller, a teacher and novelist, has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Classics from Brown University. She also is a graduate from Yale’s School of Drama. And for the past nine years, she’s been teaching Latin, and Ancient Greek to high school students. It took Ms. Miller ten years writing the book The Song of Achilles. It is also her first novel. I am actually surprised that this is only her first one knowing how exquisitely written the novel is. It doesn’t feel like that but if you consider her background, I think it really shows in her writing. I am also surprised to learn that it took her ten years to finish this but after reading about her struggles in perfecting the voice of Patroclus, well it’s worth it to be honest.

“Name one hero who was happy.”

Plot:
If you’re familiar with the story of the Trojan War or with Homer’s Iliad, this novel provides somewhat a different side to that story. A different perspective. The Iliad focuses on Achilles being a hero in the Trojan War and this book focuses on the Iliad’s minor character, Patroclus. This novel is set in ancient Greece, years before the Trojan War and until its very end, and is told in the voice of Patroclus. Patroclus chronicles his life as he grows up, his love for Achilles, and the repercussions of their bond. It’s like a fan fiction of Iliad but the focus is more on the humanity of Patroclus and Achilles. There is a lot of action also, and they’re all detailed in description so you’ll feel immersed as you read them.

“Perhaps it is the greatest grief,
 after all,
to be left on earth
when another one is gone.”

Character that I Liked the Most:
The novel’s characters are fleshed – out, and are grounded. A lot of them are relatable because they’re mostly multidimensional but the one that I liked the most is the narrator, Patroclus. A lot of us could relate to him. He is not the popular kid everyone wants to be friends with. He is not the high school jock that everyone has a crush on. He is not the most handsome guy out there. He is not the typical masculine stereotype that people find in books or even in TV shows. He is masculine yet he is not afraid to show his feminine side. He is caring, he does household chores, he knows how to do what women in ancient Greece do. He has flaws that he is aware of. He is a skilled surgeon. He is a soldier. He is kind, and he fights for what he wants. People will find Achilles a compelling character because of how he is physically with beauty that could ensnare the eyes of onlookers, and body that could rival the strongest of the Gods. What Patroclus lacks in those departments, he makes up for what he is a person. He really is a very lovely character.

“He is half of my soul,
as the poets say.”

Judgment:
I really like the book. It is an easy read. Words are written in somewhat a poetic way, and they flow effortlessly as you read them. You can also feel that the author is not pretentious with how she uses the words, and phrases them. It feels sincere. My only problem with the novel is the pacing. Sure, Patroclus’ childhood is interesting but sometimes, it drags on a bit. The way it ended also is a problem for me when it comes to the pacing. Sure, she needed to end it but she could have done more to make it more natural and not forced. It just feels like it ended, and that’s it. I loved the way that characters are fleshed – out. Most of the characters are men but the women are given importance, too.  I love that the novel is well – researched, and is somewhat accurate to the retelling of the Trojan War. The changes did not bother me especially when she made Achilles older than Patroclus. This is an LGBT read so I think that that might turn some potential readers off because of the subject matter but you should give it a try. There are sex scenes in the novel but they are written in a classy way. It’s not gratuitous sex; it’s there to add something, and to move the story forward.

This is an excellent read. I highly recommend The Song of Achilles. It’s sincere, it’s told in the most beautiful way possible. It will make you emotional especially with the ending. It will make you route for the love between Achilles and Patroclus to succeed. It will make you fall in love. It will make Patrochilles your OTP.

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