Publisher: Ecco (Imprint of Harper Collins)
Publication Date: 3/6/12
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Achilles, "the best of all the Greeks," son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful-- irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods' wrath.
They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
"I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me."
You may know how this epic mythological tale ends, but you've never read the story of Achilles and his beloved companion, Patroclus.
I really have no words for how much I loved this story, how much I believe that it deserved the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. I was approached by the publisher about a feature of the book on my blog, with an offer for a review copy. I initially turned that offer down, thinking I had no time to fit for this book. But then I took a closer look, and several friends, wanting to read it themselves, urged me to give this book a try. I'm upset to think that I almost let The Song of Achilles pass me by.
Author Madeline Miller's re-imagining of the story of Achilles is simply brilliant. It takes a special magic to entice readers into taking an adventure in which they already know the ending. With her beyond gorgeous narrative, and a focus on the beautiful, doomed love between Achilles and Patroclus, The Song of Achilles is a story to fall in love with.
To take Patroclus, a largely unremembered character from The Iliad, and build this story around him and his love for Achilles, was genius. Miller built a man who was stronger, braver, and more loyal than he could ever realize. His story was achingly tragic, and more thoughtful and beautiful than I can say.
Helen of Troy may have been the face to launch a thousand ships, but Patroclus was the force that gave Achilles the push to become a hero.
"I savored the miracle of being able to watch him openly, to enjoy the play of dappled light on his limbs, the curving of his back as he dove beneath the water. Later, we lay on the riverbank, learning the lines of each other's bodies anew. This, and this and this. We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but each other." (pg.103)
"I conjure the boy I knew. Achilles, grinning as the figs blur in his hands. His green eyes laughing into mine. Catch, he says. Achilles, outlined against the sky, hanging from a branch over the river. The thick warmth of his sleepy breath against my ear. If you have to go, I will go with you. My fears forgotten in the golden harbor of his arms." (pg.368)
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