Tuesday, 27 March 2012
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
What I found was a wonderful story. Much of it is set before Helen is kidnapped and the Greeks go to war. The narrator is Patroclus, the princely son of an insane mother and a brutal and uncaring father. After accidentally killing another boy in self-defence, Patroclus is exiled and comes under the care of King Peleus, who has a reputation for taking in lost boys like Patroclus and training them as fighters for his army. Patroclus is a bit of a weakling, not at all skilled, or interested in fighting, so it looks as though his life is going to be short and miserable.
Then Achilles comes into his life. Achilles is the son of Peleus. He is handsome, brave, talented, clever. He is a golden child. He is also part god - his mother is the sea nymph Thetis. An unlikely friendship is established between the two boys. As Achilles' companion Patroclus is exempt from the military training and his life becomes worth living at last.
So the boys grow up together. Achilles perfects his miraculous fighting skills - he is to be the greatest of the Greeks, it is his destiny. But Achilles does not want to fight, he tries to stay out of the developing war with Troy. But Odysseus finds him and persuades him to join the rest of the troops. So Achilles goes to war, where it is prophesied he will die.
I thought that this was a fascinating book, I was completely caught up in it. The friendship between Achilles and Patroclus is wonderfully portrayed with the friendship gradually developing into romantic love. Also very well done is Achilles character development. Once he begins to fight in earnest and sees the respect and awe he commands he becomes a fearsome warrior. He comes to love the power and to be very protective of it. His love for Patroclus is unwavering, but his reputation and standing in the world become more and more important to him. The book has made me want to read more about Greek history and myths and I wish that there was a reading list in the back of the book so I would know where to begin.