Book review: The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 5/5 stars (and as soon as I find a way to give more than a 100% rating I will up the rating)

Trigger warnings for the book: blood, gore, violence, major character death, murder & mayhem
Bonus points for this book: LGBT romance
Spoiler warnings for this review: I will try to keep this spoilerfree, though I put warnings ahead of anything that`s potentially a spoiler. I know the story is more than 2000 years old so technically it`s all been around for a while, but as I was one of those people who didn`t know it at all, I`m writing this review with other people in mind who also don`t know the original Iliad stories.

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Goodreads summary:

This is a breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War – a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart. Shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize.

First of all: @Goodreads, this is a really shitty summary. Wow. I`m impressed. Let me do it for you (spoilers ahead!!)

The Song of Achilles is the story of the Iliad. It`s the story of Achilles, the demigod, the born warrior. It`s the story of the war of Troy, of Helen and Odysseus and Agamemnon. But first and foremost, this book is the story of Patroclus. Patroclus, the prince, who fell and was exiled, and who was raised back up again through sheer stubbornness and love. This is the story of Patroclus and Achilles, together, always. This is the story of this, this and this, of name a hero who was happy – you can`t – but I will be the first – because of you.

(end of spoilers)

In all honesty, I kind of dreaded writing this review. To me, writing a review of a book is the last step, the final chapter, the end of a time spent with a book. I really did not want my time with The Song of Achilles to end. But as time went on, I started to realise: it`s not going to. I can write all the reviews I want, and I will still love this book and think about this book. I will still cry about these characters.

Still, instead of a normal “I liked this book and here is why” type of review, I`m going to do something else. I`m going to (very roughly) describe my process of reading this book and the aftermath.

STEP 1: halfway through the book 
I`d realised straight from the beginning, possibly even before I even got my hands on this book, that I would like this book. But it wasn`t until halfway through that I could feel my heart start to break for these two young boys. It was also when I realised that I was in too deep, that I had trouble putting the book down at all, and that I was wishing I wouldn`t have to work just so I could keep reading this book. This is where I was still giggling at how cute everything was.

This is also where I was still looking up the original characters on wikipedia.

Step 2: the final 100 pages of the book. 
This is where it all went downhill. This is where the tears came in, and where I put aside actual responsibilities for the sake of crying over two boys.

This is where I was looking up playlists on 8tracks, and blogs on Tumblr. (though I still had the tag blacklisted so I wouldn`t see too many spoilers).

Step 3: the end of the book. 
I finished the book, crying, sobbing. I went to work in a daze the next day. I`m still surprised I managed to do my job well, considering my head was still somewhere in ancient Greece. This is where I had the biggest book hangover in years, one that lasted almost 2 weeks.

This is where I looked into which version of the original Iliad was best for a beginner/for me. This is where I put other books based in/on Ancient Greece in my bookdepository shopping basket. (This is where I went way over budget on bookdepository so I could buy the Iliad, the Theban Plays by Sophocles and the first Percy Jackson book.) This is where I started driving everyone around me absolutely insane because I could not shut up about Achilles and Patroclus.

This is where I didn`t read another book for the first week, but devoured every TSOA fanfic I could find instead.

Step 4: post-book hangover 
It took me two weeks, but I started -very slowly, albeit – coming to terms with my emotions for this book. I felt like I`d been grieving, and was starting to give these feelings a place. I suppose, in a way, I was. I started picking up other books again. I very slowly made my way through The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham. I read a tiny bit of War and Peace.

I found myself comparing everything to The Song of Achilles, and realising nothing quite compared.

Step 5: a month later
It is now a month after I finished The Song of Achilles. I have managed to move on with my life. But I did also just write this review while listening to one of the playlists I listened to when I was reading this book, and I just remembered that one of the fanfics I was following updated yesterday.

So I`m going to stop here, so I can read that chapter.

TL;DR: if you haven`t read this book yet: what are you doing with your life. Why haven`t you read it. I need people to cry with. Go read this book and then come back to me, and I will send you some nice, fluffy fanfics with happy endings.

Go forth and read, all ye lovelies. And remember to bring tissues.

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5 Responses to Book review: The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

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