Review: Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I could give this an extra star past “I love it!” I would, because it accomplished something that I hardly ever find. It made me cry. Sobbed through the last five pages, could barely see to read the words.

It’s even more amazing to me that I cried at the ending of a story that I “knew” the ending of before I started it. But even if you know the Iliad, you don’t really know this ending, because this book wasn’t about the long war, or the heroes who fought in it, or the trials and adventures they faced. This book was about Achilles and Patroclus. Yes, all of the above served as the supporting cast and framework in which their story took place, but this is a love story.

On top of that, it’s told by the character we never really knew, Patroclus. His view of the war and how it plays out is nothing like those who fought in it for glory or honor or to serve the gods’ ends. You get to see the human side of the story.

And it’s amazingly done. I’ve seen some say it’s slow, and as an action-filled story of a great war and the acts of great heroes, sure, it would be. That’s not the kind of book it is, though, and as a love story it is paced beautifully. The author’s ability to evoke setting and atmosphere and pure, mercilessly intense emotion is the wonder of this book.

I will admit, reading it the first time, the seemingly random flipping back and forth from present tense to past tense for no reason I could ever figure out, was a distraction, but aside from making me pause and adjust from time to time, it was nothing compared to the power of the story.

Yes, you know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to end.

But you have no idea.

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