I have never read the Iliad. It's one of the timeless classics that has been on my list for a long time. Unfortunately, I just haven't made my way through many classics. Thanks to Madeline Miller, I got to enjoy the story of Achilles in a refreshing modern take.
If you aren't familiar with the Iliad, it's a story about the ten-year siege of the city of Troy. The original story only covers a few weeks of the war, The Song of Achilles tells us about Achilles and his life leading up to the great war.
Achilles was the son of Peleus, the king of Phthia. He spent his childhood like most princes probably do. Training, lounging, and enjoying a carefree life. He spent plenty of time playing with the other boys of the household; Peleus was kind and took in boys that had no place to call home.
The narrator of this modern epic is Patroclus. He was cast away from his home when he stood up for himself, pushing another boy to the ground where a sharp rock was waiting. Thankfully for Patroclus, Peleus took him in.
Unlike Achilles, there was nothing special about Patroclus. At least not on the surface. He was terribly normal. He spent a lot of his time admiring Achilles and the two eventually formed quite the bond. Achilles found Patroclus refreshing. He wasn't begging for Achilles' attention at all hours of the day like the other boys.
The two boys quickly become inseparable. They mature together while developing an intense romance. The Song of Achilles has some of the steamiest sexual encounters I've read and the romance burns bright until the end.
Miller's writing is beautiful. It's poetic, powerful, and a joy to read. The words flow off the page and I could hardly consume them fast enough. I didn't really know what I was getting into before I read the book. I picked it based on the title and it's great rating on Good Reads. It did not disappoint.
There could've been a bit better balance in the content of the book. I would've preferred equal parts Trojan War and budding romance. The war lasted a decade, but it seemed rushed in the book. As someone that signed up for mythology, there was more romance than I would've liked. However, it felt genuine, thoughtful, and was well written so I still enjoyed the book as a whole.
There is beauty in Patroclus' tragedy thanks to Miller's prose. Her command of the written word is one I wished existed in Dune. I look forward to digging into the Iliad in 2021!