Although unlucky to get ill I was lucky to have this book. I'd already read about 1/3 of it, but now I suddenly had lots of time to kill. All of a sudden I was able to finish it in one go. I suppose The song of Achilles falls in the 'good read' category, maybe it's even a comfort book. It tells a well-known story from Homer's Iliad: the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus. But where Homer uses Patroclus as a foil to unleash the wrath of Achilles (i.e. he's a rather minor character), Miller makes Patroclus the narrator and focus of her novel. Using Homer as a base she weaves a whole story around the two boys' friendship (there's a few homo-erotic undertones as well), until their inevitable downfall before Troy. There's a lot to tell so Miller keeps the pace high. She certainly doesn't use very literary writing, but I like what she does. She sticks to the myths and adds just enough to make it her own story.
I enjoyed being in this classical world again, a world I mostly left behind me after finishing high school. (Incidentally, already knowing most of the names and plotlines from before and during the Trojan war is, I wouldn't say a must, but definitely an advantage). I spent the rest of the day looking up classic Greek playwrights like Sophocles, Aeschylos and Euripides, besides looking at that nice series The Odyssey from 1997. It's always nice when a book triggers you like that, so well done Madeline Miller. And thanks to my collegue who borrowed me her son's copy of The song of Achilles, after I'd recommended it to him.
12 November 2012
Originally published 2011