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The Song of Achilles

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The legend begins...

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must 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 Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published September 20, 2011

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About the author

Madeline Miller

28 books61k followers
Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

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Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
530 reviews34.5k followers
October 26, 2022
”We were like gods, at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”

This book!!!
Gosh I loved this book!!!

The moment I read the first page I was already certain of two things:
1.) This would become one of my all-time favourites and I’d gush about it like crazy.
2.) It wouldn’t only leave me devastated and heartbroken but also sobbing like a little child.

Well, both of those things came true, even way earlier than I had initially anticipated. I was about 37% percent in (yes I looked it up! ;-P) when I first started to cry and it didn’t get any better after that. This book was just so beautiful! So, so damn beautiful! Madeline Miller definitely has a way with words and I loved how this story was written: Poetical with a lot of mythological facts and with so many details that it succeeded to make this a more than just intriguing journey.

What I loved the most was how she managed to convey Achilles’ and Patroclus relationship though. Even though she never went into detail, never actually let them say that they loved each other; it was still palpable in every single moment they shared together. Those moments were so precious I couldn’t get enough of them and all I wanted was for them to be happy.

Unfortunately I’m a little geek and know a lot about Greek mythology so yeah, I already knew how it would end before it even ended. Still, the sense of foreboding in this book!!! Oh gosh, it killed me!! All those little hints, those infinitesimal innuendos, those tiny insinuations, they piled up and up and up until all I was able to feel was dread!!! By the end of the book I was reduced to a sobbing and crying nervous wreck and the final sentence was like a dagger in my heart.

In other words:
This was exceptionally painful and utterly devastating,
it was also so damn good and worth every second of pain!

The characters:

This is my spoiler section in which I’m going to speak about the individual characters and what I thought of them. So you better beware and don’t read it if you still want to read the book. Heed my warning or get lost in the underworld. It’s your choice, choose wisely! ;-P


’Ah.’ A sly smile spread across his face; he had always loved defiance. ‘Well, why should I kill him? He’s done nothing to me.’

This sentence killed me when I first read it! Achilles, my beautiful, innocent and naïve boy!!! Jeez! I loved him so much! He was every bit the hero people believed him to be and most of the time he actually did the right thing. Well, most of the time. At the end of the book there happened a lot of things I didn’t agree with and the longer his conflict with Agamemnon lasted the more I dreaded the end! It made me so sad to see how much Achilles changed over the years and when the thing with Briseis happened my reaction was the same as Patroclus’! I mean I knew what Achilles did (I’m a geek remember?) but reading it the way Madeline Miller wrote it? Boy it destroyed me! There was this wonderful, perfect, righteous, honourable, intelligent, innocent and honest golden boy and then the war over Troy tainted him, transformed him and made him an entirely different person. The true tragedy about this all is that he never even wanted to take part in the war, he was more or less forced into it and I think looking at it in retrospective a life as a normal person would have been preferable to the one of a hero. I guess in the end Achilles saw it the same way and would have done everything in order to change his path. Even if it would have meant that he would have been forgotten and would have never become a legend… it would have been worth it. Patroclus would have been worth it… *cries*

”I stopped watching for ridicule, the scorpion’s tail hidden in his words. He said what he meant; he was puzzled if you did not. Some people might have mistaken this for simplicity. But is it not a sort of genius to cut always to the heart?”

”Your honour could be darkened by it.”
“Then it is darkened.” His jaw shot forward, stubborn. “They are fools if they let my glory rise or fall on this.”
“But Odysseus –“
His eyes, green as spring leaves, met mine. “Patroclus. I have given enough to them. I will not give them this.”

”They grinned, loving every inch of their miraculous prince: his gleaming hair, his deadly hands, his nimble feet. They leaned towards him, like flowers to the sun, drinking in his lustre. It was as Odysseus had said: he had light enough to make heroes of them all.”

”It is not true. You left yourself today. And now you are returned.”
His shoulders rise and fall on a long breath. “Do not say that,” he says, “until you have heard the rest of what I have done.”


”I went to Peleus. I knelt before him on a wool rug, woven bright with purple. He started to speak, but I was too quick for him. One of my hands went to clasp his knees, the other reached upward, to seize his chin with my hand. The pose of supplication. It was a gesture I had seen many times, but had never made myself. I was under his protection now; he was bound to treat me fairly, by the law of the gods.
‘Tell me where he is,’ I said.”

I adored Patroclus! He was the best! He was wonderful and beautiful in his own way and I loved how faithful he was. That boy was one of the kindest and sweetest people I ever read about (tough competition for Lazlo Strange *lol*) and I was so happy Achilles saw this too. He realized that Patroclus is special and he encouraged him to speak his mind. It felt like Patroclus was Achilles’ conscience, intervening whenever his divine heritage showed. Without Patroclus Achilles path would have been dark and bloody but with him at his side he became the glorious figure we all know about. Patroclus was so much more than just a companion. He was a friend, a lover, a teacher, a conscience, a reminder and Achilles past, present and future! This boy was literally the embodiment of Achilles life and actions and the people around them were fools for not seeing their strong connection. Patroclus was everything that was good about Achilles, he brought out the best in him. Taught him compassion and love, he was an anchor and someone he could come home to! Speak to! Confide in! Once Patroclus was gone the relentless godly part of Achilles showed though and the rest of it is (bloody) history. T_T

’Patroclus.’ It was the name my father had given me, hopefully but injudiciously, at my birth, and it tasted of bitterness on my tongue. ‘Honour of the father,’ it meant.

”Perhaps she thought I was mocking her, flourishing my triumph. Perhaps she thought I hated her. She did not know that I almost asked him, a hundred times, to be a little kinder to her. You do not have to humiliate her so thoroughly, I thought. But it was not kindness he lacked, it was interest. His gaze passed over her as if she were not here.”

’Willl you come with me?’ he asked.
The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death.
Yes, I whispered. Yes.

”I do not know this man, I think. He is no one I have ever seen before. My rage towards him is hot as blood. I will never forgive him. I imagine tearing down our tent, smashing the lyre, stabbing myself in the stomach and bleeding to death. I want to see his face broken with grief and regret. I want to shatter the cold mask of stone that has slipped down over the boy I knew. He has given her to Agamemnon knowing what will happen.”


”May I give you some advice? If you are truly his friend you will help him leave his soft heart behind. He’s going to Troy to kill men, not rescue them.” His dark eyes held me like swift-running current. “He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

Damn, how much I hated and liked that sneaky and cunning bastard!! I’m still very torn when it comes to him. On the one hand he gave sound advice and knew exactly what he did and on the other hand he forced Achilles on his destined path. If it wouldn’t have been for Odysseus he would have never gone to Troy and even though I agree with his sentiment that Achilles could save them all, I still disagree with the way he played him. Of all the countless men that manipulated young Achilles, Odysseus probably was the worst, hiding behind the mask of a friend but ultimately pursuing his own goals. Clever! Very clever indeed!


”Then you are a traitor to this army, and will be punished like one. Your war prizes are hostage, placed in my care until you offer your obedience and submission. Let us start with that girl. Briseis, is her name? She will do as a penance for the girl you have forced me to return.”

I HATE AGAMEMNON!!! Fiercely!!! Such an unfair and dishonourable numpty!!! I hate him and all his actions! I mean what kind of father would trade his daughter away and then kill her?! His own flesh and blood! Gosh, I CAN’T EVEN WITH HIM!! I’m still so angry! Those moments at the end and the tense situation between Achilles and him had me at the edge of my seat and all I wanted to do was to scream at the injustice that took place in front of me!!! Such a stubborn and self-righteous fool!! He should have listened to Achilles but he was too proud to. *shakes head in disbelief* I. HATE. HIM!!! Enough said!


Another person that landed on my shit list! *lol* I really, really disliked her too! I mean I understand that she was Achilles mother and only wanted the best for her son, but it was more than just obvious that the best was Patroclus and I hated her for always trying to drive a wedge between them! Without Thetis half of their troubles wouldn’t have even existed and even though she kind of redeemed herself in the end I still don’t like her! Sorry Thet, but you’ll never get a thumbs-up from me! #SorryNotSorrry

The relationship:

Achilles & Patroclus:

”This morning he had leaped on to my bed and pressed his nose against mine. ‘Good morning,’ he’d said. I remembered the heat of him against my skin.”

Ohh how sweet those two were! I loved their relationship! They were so gentle and adorable and no matter what happened and no matter how many obstacles were in their way they always managed to find back to each other! They had confidence in each other and they supported each other regardless of the consequences. Achilles and Patroclus had such an honest and beautiful relationship, I CAN’T EVEN!!!! THIS was the real deal!!! A connection so deep that no one could destroy it, a love so strong that it cast aside all obstacles, their trust so deep that they could talk about everything!!! Boy, I could gush about this relationship at eye level for eternity and still would never get tired of it! *lol* I just adore them so much! It was so sweet they couldn’t even be angry with each other and even though Patroclus wasn’t always happy with Achilles decisions, he still did his best to support him as best as he could, even if that meant that he had to go against his will. I think in the end their unconditional love for each other was the only thing that was able to break them and it eventually did. Jeez! How it did! *cries again* Achilles had no reason to kill Hector, no reason to fulfil the prophecy. Well, at least not until Hector took the only thing that mattered to him, the only thing he didn’t want to live without. Patroclus! *sobs* Hell! The way Achilles grieved!!! It broke my freaking heart!!! It was like a punch in the gut! I know first-hand how much this hurts, how painful it is to lose a person you love so much, and boy did it trigger my emotions. T_T I felt Achilles grief with him and it was so intense it left me crying and sobbing. They were so beautiful together… so, so, so damn beautiful. I can’t anymore… *weeps*

”I saw then how I had changed. I did not mind any more, that I lost when we raced and I lost when we swam out to the rocks and I lost when we tossed spears or skipped stones. For who can be ashamed to lose to such beauty? It was enough to watch him win, to see the soles of his feet flashing as they kicked up sand, or the rise and fall of his shoulders as he pulled through the salt. It was enough.”

”My pulse jumps, for no reason I can name. He has looked at me a thousand times, but there is something different in this gaze, an intensity I do not know. My mouth is dry, and I can hear the sound of my throat as I swallow.
He watches me. It seems that he is waiting.”

”His eyes were unwavering, green flecked with gold. A certainty rose in me, lodged in my throat. I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me.”

”Had she really thought I would not know him? I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell, I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

”You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I can’t.”
“I know. They never let you be famous and happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” He took my palm and held it to him. “Swear it.”
“Why me?”
“Because you’re the reason. Swear it.”
“I swear it,” I said, lost in the high colour of his cheeks, the flame in his eyes.
“I swear it,” he echoed.

”There was more to say, but for once we did not say it. There would be other times for speaking, tonight and tomorrow and all the days after that. He let go of my hand.”

All told this was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It caused me to cry, it made me angry, it made me smile and it touched me deeply. I’m a total mess after reading this and my emotions are still all over the place, to say I regret reading it would be one hell of a lie though.

I rarely write this into my reviews but: If you haven’t read this, do it now!!! You won’t regret it! =)

Last but not least I want to thank my Sweet Sugar Bun who dared to buddy read this book with me! Thank you for all the comments, messages and updates that made it bearable to read this book. I swear if you wouldn’t have discussed this with me I would have cried even more often than I already did. *lol* So yeah, thanks for that wonderful buddy read and for keeping my sanity intact. I really appreciate it! XD We definitely should go for another buddy read some time soon! I heard “Circe” is a nice book too! *lol* ;-P

In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood, like a hundred golden urns pouring out the sun.”

Artist credit: I really tried my best to track down the artist but all I could find out is that the picture was shared again and again on pinterest. One of the people who shared it is: https://www.pinterest.com/avalonisles/ I don't have pinterest so I dunno how this works?!
Profile Image for saïd.
6,140 reviews698 followers
May 7, 2023
Words cannot describe how much I despise this book, but boy am I gonna try. I was genuinely shocked at how wildly inaccurate Madeline Miller’s “interpretation” of these characters is, and I’m still shocked by the blatant misogyny, homophobia, and overall poor writing. Miller said she spent ten years—the length of the Trojan War—on writing this novel. My opinion is that she should’ve spent Odysseus’s journey home as well before sending it off for publishing... or just given the manuscript the Clytemnestra treatment.

Here are some issues I had, helpfully organised by topic.
In the Iliad Patroclus is one of the Achaeans’ most formidable warriors: he kills more than almost any other character, including a son of Zeus; he convincingly portrays Achilles to the point that the Achaeans’ own armies are roused to battle again; he’s only stopped from scaling the walls of Troy itself when the god Apollo himself plucks him off the wall the fourth time he tries, so that Hector can fight him. Patroclus is Achilles’s equal—put a pin in that, by the way, because it’s an important detail.

The way Miller writes him is nothing like that. A certain amount of leeway is to be expected, of course, but changing the character and personality of one of Homer’s most famous figures to such an extent is beyond bizarre. Miller writes him as a limp-wristed medic twink who does nothing but follow Achilles around like a sycophantic pet. When he puts on Achilles’s armour to go into battle, no one thinks he’ll replace Achilles; everyone—Achilles included!—thinks he’ll fall instantly. The Homeric Patroclus was an excellent fighter in his own right, but Miller’s Patroclus is a waifish pansy who can barely lift a spear.

Miller writes him like a modern stereotype of a “bottom,” which would be homophobic in its own right even if she weren’t making it so that he and Achilles (as she writes them) would fit neatly into a seme/uke dynamic. Achilles and Patroclus notably did not fit into the roles expected of a same-sex relationship at the time, despite how Miller writes it.
The first line of the Iliad identifies the crux of the story: rage. Achilles’s rage is his defining characteristic, not his warmth or his kindness or his gentleness. His moments of affection (typically involving Thetis) are always filtered through anger. Even Patroclus calls out Achilles on his shitty behaviour. Part of what makes Achilles such a fascinating character is his flaws: his anger, his intolerance, his blind fury. I’d concede that some of it might be misguided love, but the majority is rage. He’s got some anger issues, okay?

Miller doesn’t write about this. She apparently doesn’t understand that Achilles isn’t the moral paragon of this story—the reason he refuses to fight isn’t because he thinks battle is wrong, or killing is evil; it’s because Agamemnon stole one of his slave woman before Achilles could rape her. His character development—which comes too late, at the expense of Patroclus—is in the form of the realisation that he can’t sulk indefinitely in his tent, but he actually has to fight in the war in which he was conscripted.

Miller’s Achilles is a two-dimensional cardboard cutout of a tragic figure: all flash and no substance. We’re told over and over how amazing Achilles is, but never does any of this alleged amazingness ever feature. While Patroclus waxes lyrical over Achilles’s swift ankles (get it?) or whatever, the audience is left wondering if Patroclus’s Achilles is an entirely different character from the one Miller has written. Which brings me to—
Much like Cat Valente, whose writing I also vehemently dislike, Miller’s prose is “good” in the sense that it lends itself well to a thousand out-of-context quotes on Instagram posts. In a publishing industry heavily reliant on social media and word-of-mouth marketing, I can’t necessarily condemn this; I dislike it, sure, but it clearly sells. Miller wrote some genuinely evocative and stunning lines—I’m sure you’ve seen them all over Tumblr—but in terms of actual writing (pacing, character development, characterisation, pathos) there’s no talent present. I’m fairly certain that, were the basic plot not already laid out for her, she’d do poorly in that area as well.

Part of what makes the Iliad so culturally tenacious is its ties to oral tradition. Stories passed down via oral tradition, such as Homeric epics or the story of Gilgamesh, tend to focus on repetition (stock phrases, epithets, exposition, etc.). Much in the way an engrossing campfire tale would be best told through performance, the Iliad was probably never intended to be an actual historical account—it was sensationalised hearsay, meant to rhapsodise on the great heroes and their epic battles. The catalogue of ships is not good writing in the sense that it makes a good story; it’s more of an account of who came from where, brought what with them, and so on. What fascinates us about the Iliad today is partially its importance to historiography and partially its characters—who amongst us hasn’t felt the same emotions as Achilles, Andromache, Briseis, Hector? But there were countless stories of that type that were simply lost to history.

Miller’s rendition is, in a word, forgettable.
The Iliad opens with exposition, and doesn’t shy away from use of it. Conversely, Miller relies on the fact that her audience is already familiar with not only the Iliad but also Greek mythology in general, because she doesn’t spare much thought to writing the reasons why Achilles and Patroclus are in love. What draws them together? Miller doesn’t say. Why is Achilles so special? We never learn. What about Patroclus caught Achilles’s attention, when he could have his pick of women or men? No answer is given. There’s no narrative depth or development to their relationship, so the emotional core of the story—Patroclus’s death—rings hollow.
As I mentioned in the section on Patroclus, one of the main issues I had with Miller’s framing of the Achilles–Patroclus relationship within a sort of seme/uke dynamic is that it wasn’t like that in the Iliad. In reality the fact that it wasn’t was so notable that scholars both contemporary and later were arguing back and forth about which of them was the “top” and which the “bottom” in their sexual relationship. Both in classical antiquity and in modernity, the fact that they were equals makes them stand out. Miller could’ve taken this unique relationship and made something revolutionary and groundbreaking of it, but she chose not to. Instead, Patroclus is effeminate, innocent, campy, and squeamish about the blood and guts of war. He’s a “healer” who stays in the tents while Achilles is off slaughtering men on the battlefield. He’s soft-hearted and empathetic, crying while Achilles is emotionless—never mind the fact that, in the Iliad, Achilles wept so hard and so long at Patroclus’s death that the sound of his cries reached the bottom of the sea and alerted Thetis, who came barrelling up to see what was wrong.

The result of this, of course, is that Miller’s portrayal of a gay relationship is basically just a heteronormative straight one. Patroclus could be replaced by a woman and it would change absolutely nothing about the story Miller has written. In essence, Miller has told the audience that queer relationships are fundamentally the same as heterosexual ones, and that makes them okay!... with no apparent knowledge of or care as to how this might contribute to the perpetuation of homophobia in the real world. It’s not an accurate portrayal of the characters she claims to love so much, and it’s unintentionally homophobic at best.
I could go on for years about how much I hate how Miller writes women (for more of that, see Circe), but it can be easily summarised: Miller has two types of woman, “plain supportive non-threatening wing(wo)man” or “conventionally attractive evil jealous bitch,” and those are the only female characters she writes.
In the interest of transparency I’ll admit upfront that Thetis is one of my favourite characters in the Iliad. She’s a fascinating figure, a rape victim who never wanted children and fled from her abusive husband as soon as she could, but still loved her son and visited him whenever possible, trying to protect him from being conscripted into the war and then, when it was inevitable, pulling strings by exploiting her godly connections to convince Hephaestus to forge Achilles’s shield. She dipped him in the Styx when he was a baby because she wanted to protect him. As I mentioned, Achilles cried so loudly when Patroclus died that Thetis heard him from the ocean floor and came to the surface to console him. She helped him care for Patroclus’s body and build his pyre. And does Miller write Thetis as the immortal nereid who loved her mortal son? No, of course not. Miller writes her as a jealous, scheming villain who hates Patroclus and who abandoned her son—never mind that she was and did the opposite in the Iliad! Thetis loved her son so much she tried to make him immortal so she could keep him with her forever, and was only prevented from doing so by Peleus, her rapist and Achilles’s father.

Here’s what Miller has to say on that particular topic:
“An ordinary wife would have counted herself lucky to find a husband with [Peleus’s] mildness, his smile-lined face.”
Mildness?! He tricked her and raped her, at which point the gods forced her to marry him and stay with him for a year, during which time he continued to abuse her. And Miller blames her for escaping at the earliest possible moment. Miller’s reasoning for Thetis’s escape is that she loathed his human simplicity and mortality, instead of, oh, I don’t know, the fact that he raped and abused her!

And then Miller has the audacity to make Thetis act as the instigator of a sexual relationship between Achilles and Deidamia—a sexual relationship which Miller writes as notably non-consensual on Achilles’s part. Thetis, a rape victim herself, who loved her son more than anything, not only allowed but also facilitated his rape. I don’t think I have to further explain how disgusting this is. Miller described Thetis as “cruel,” but I’d say Miller’s own depiction of the character was far more cruel than Thetis ever was.
(For a better portrayal of Briseis, I’d recommend Pat Barker’s Silence of the Girls.)

Briseis is a complicated figure. In the Iliad she’s barely a character at all, more of a narrative catalyst and a thing over which to be fought. Briseis was captured, and then raped, by Achilles. Not only does Miller remove this detail (because how dare Achilles be anything less than perfect), she also makes Briseis fall in love with Patroclus. Again, a woman is an obstacle between Achilles and Patroclus. Was Miller worried we wouldn’t be invested in their relationship if it weren’t constantly challenged by heterosexuality?

Also bizarre is the fact that, while all of Miller’s women are either villains, obstacles, or dalliances, every (sympathetic) man is bestowed with modern twenty-first-century feminist mindsets—not only are Briseis and the other women captured by Achilles not assaulted, but they also come to care for him and for Patroclus because of how kind and respectful these men are. This would be lovely in real life, of course, but it’s not what happened in the Iliad.
One of the seven daughters of King Lycomedes amidst whom Achilles was concealed when Thetis dressed him up in drag to hide him from the war recruiters, Deidamia is a minor character in Achilles’s story. She and Achilles had a sexual relationship (despite the fact that they couldn’t have been older than 14–15), and Deidamia later gave birth to Neoptolemus—known as Pyrrhus after the name Achilles adopted while disguised as a woman: Pyrrha.

In Miller’s version Deidamia rapes Achilles in order to get pregnant. Miller invented this entirely, for some inexplicable reason. Later, in a weird sort of revenge(?), Patroclus also has sex with her. It’s graphically described in a way the various sex scenes between Achilles and Patroclus never are (the word “oily” or “greasy” is featured, if I recall correctly), and decidedly uncomfortable. This contributes nothing to the story as a whole.
Miller barely mentions Helen, but what little attention Helen does get is not exactly glowing. The narrative of Helen as an evil seductress instead of a victim is hardly new—it crops up as early as the Oresteia, when Orestes blames Helen for the murder of his father—but it never gets any less disappointing. Helen was bewitched by Aphrodite and given as a prize to Paris. Regardless of whether she truly grew to love him or always longed to go back to Menelaus, blaming her for the war is ahistorical and misogynistic.
Anyone who says that ancient Greece was 100% accepting of homosexual relationships is factually incorrect. Our modern idea of sexuality cannot be applied to ancient societies (the term for this is presentism). Although same-sex relationships between men were indeed commonplace, they were not typically considered on the same level as heterosexual relationships (often associated with marriage—love and marriage were discrete topics throughout much of history). What was common amongst men was pederasty, a relationship dynamic in which the older man, typically more knowledgeable and experienced, was the erastes (active partner) and the younger man, typically less-experienced and more effeminate, was the eromenos (passive partner). Obviously the notion of top/bottom dynamics has persisted into modern queer relationships, although in reality it’s rare that one person will prefer being exclusively one or the other.

Also important to any discussion of this dynamic is the reason it was so accepted: misogyny. Partially this was a result of the focus on the act of penetration, i.e., the penetrator was the more masculine, and the penetrated was effeminate. Women were also viewed as incapable of love to the same extent that men were, and so the “ideal” relationship was between two men, who were intellectual equals, as opposed to women, who (it was believed) weren’t capable of the same degree of affection. This delusion persisted into modernity, often resulting in homosocial relationships, if not outright homosexual ones.

Achilles’s and Patroclus’s relationship was a subject of interest to ancient scholars and philosophers, because it defied the traditional pederastic roles into which homosexual relationships were expected to fall, namely because both Achilles and Patroclus were accomplished warriors, were of an age, and had distinguished themselves in battle independently of each other—in short, it was unclear which was erastes and which was eromenos. This dynamic—same-sex love between equals—was rare in ancient Greek societies (Alexander and Hephaistion are another example of a same-sex relationship which did not conform to the expected dynamic), and thus would have been an excellent literary vehicle to discuss and unpack some of these harmful expectations and tropes, both in ancient and modern societies, had Miller cared to do so.
This is a minor detail, but it bothered me: Miller’s Achilles is revolted by the concept of even touching a woman, but Achilles did like women, and in fact slept with at least two within the context of the Iliad. Patroclus, whom Miller writes as disgusted by Deidamia’s vagina, also slept with at least one woman in the Iliad. This is a minor change—none of those women except Deidamia and Briseis are important to the story—and I wouldn’t have minded Miller’s changing it had she written more and better female characters.
Maybe if I weren’t a classicist I might’ve enjoyed it, but I am, so I didn’t. It’s made even worse because Miller herself has an Ivy League classics degree and, while we’re all well-accustomed to seeing bastardisations of the classics in popular media (think Troy or 300), I expect better from someone who matriculated from Brown University. There’s no way she got a degree in classics without having read the Symposium and Phaidros—both of which discuss, at length, the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Plato’s characters (mouthpieces, really) discuss how Achilles and Patroclus do not adhere to the traditional pederastic dynamic expected of young men their age. This would actually be an excellent way to dissect and discuss gender roles, sexuality, and heteronormativity in ancient (and, indirectly, modern) society and queer relationships. But instead we get this, and hordes of uneducated high school children fawn over a factually inaccurate, fetishistic, homophobic portrayal of Achilles and Patroclus, and Miller gets rich off her scheming. This is nothing more than poorly written Iliad fan fiction that’s exactly as bad as anything you’d find on LiveJournal circa 2007 (I was born into it... moulded by it...).

TL;DR Fuck this book, and fuck everyone who supports it.
Profile Image for Paz R.M..
367 reviews125 followers
August 29, 2018
1.5 stars.
Aw man, where do I start with this one?
I know that the big majority of people love this book. They cried and were heartbroken and it was the best thing they ever read and shit, but for me? It was just so boring. The characters were horrendous, if I wanted to read about the most useless, passive and boring narrator being in love with this attractive, golden god, dude with no personality, and when he does have one, he just turns to a selfish prick, I would reread Twilight. Seriously, can Patroclus be any more of a Bella?

The writing was mediocre, the author clearly knows her stuff, but the dialogues were often ridiculous, the pacing was off. This story NEVER seemed to end. Now I wonder: how the hell does an epic tale become such a bland, flat story?

Ok, confession time, I never read The Iliad. I am 90% sure I read The Odyssey twice in my school years, yup, blame it on my school to make us read the same book twice just years apart. I am, however, familiar with this story. I enjoy Greek mythology and I was all for this book and its premise. But it was just not for me.

My biggest problem with the book was the characters, like I said before, they were awful characters. Patroclus is portrayed from the beginning as this weak, bland guy who can't defend himself and, throughout the book, that never changes. He is one of the most passive characters I've ever read. He is there solely to admire every physical aspect of Achilles, damn this guy had a thing for homeboy's feet. Seriously Patroclus, we get it, Achilles's feet were soft and pink and smell amazing. I got the message, and I also got how golden his skin and hair and everything in him was. Guy's hot, noted. What drove me crazy was the fact that Achilles really was the sole reason of Patroclus's existence. Without him, he didn't know how to do anything, he didn't have a reason to live and I just, ugh, really? We are going there? The whole ''if he dies, I'll die too cause there's nothing for me after him'' speech? Ugh. Even though Achilles and Patroclus had zero chemistry (seriously how many times do these guys talk, like really talk, in this book?) Do I have to believe that this good for nothing kind of guy, with no personality whatsoever, is actually the most beloved person for the best of the greeks? For this demigod? I just can't buy into this relationship that happens to be the entire focus of this book. It's like the author takes for granted that we know this is a love story between them so why bother to actually develop a relationship?

Achilles, he had no personality either until almost the very end of this book and then he turns into this selfish, proud asshole that even though is letting everyone be killed and failing to notice how dumb his decision is, is still admired and revered by Patroclus... I just...this book is just so dumb sometimes.

Of the story I can't say much because nothing happens. Seriously, we spend years in places and there's nothing to further the plot, it's like we are just waiting for the call against Troy. It is so boring and in this time, there's never a change in these characters. To me, the 8 years old Patroclus is the same Patroclus at the end. I don't know if it is because the story is told in past tense or if it's definitely a mistake from the author, but it reads the same. Through Patroclus's childhood, adolescence and adulthood, the character and his views feel exactly the same, which is ridiculous. For example, when all their greeks companions are dying and Achilles refuses to fight, even though Patroclus knows it's the stupidest decision ever, he refuses to say something and act, so what do they do? They both just consider to maybe swim or play later that day... I repeat, this book can be so dumb.

I don't understand Thetis role in here and why was Achilles so devoted to hear her and always obey her. Why was Achilles the perfect son, I don't understand because they clearly had a lot of issues.

I can't really say more, because I would be criticizing the same things over and over. I had a lot of issues with this book, this book took me more than a month to read More than a month! A book that I was planning to finish in 4 days... It seemed like it would NEVER end. The prophecy said that Achilles would die shortly after Hector, you don't know how many times I was rooting for this dude to die so everything could end soon. JUST SOMEONE COULD PLEASE KILL HECTOR NOW.

Anyway, if you liked this book, and judging by the ratings and reviews everyone and their mother loved this book, good for you! I personally had one of the most boring and frustrating experiences reading this. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the Iliad, but I sincerely doubt it. That being said, the only thing and character I truly enjoyed was Odysseus. You go, Odysseus. You da best Odysseus!
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
April 28, 2020
Madeline Miller did what the movie producers of the film Troy (2004) were too cowardly to do; she stayed true to the homosexuality of Homer’s Iliad rather than writing a censored version of the story which stank of homophobia. Achilles and Patroclus were passionately in love, which resulted in their respective destructions. They were not cousins or man at arms, but soul mates. The watering down of this in the film Troy was an insult to the LGBT community. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The attraction between these two men wasn’t something that was rushed and squandered. It was built up, ever so slowly, and delivered eloquently. The two were friends from boyhood, and Patroclus was enamoured by Achilles after just one glance. He didn’t want to be parted from him. The two grew up together, they fought together, they learnt together and they developed together. They became inseparable and reliant on each other. Their sexual relationship just matured as they did it; it was the most natural thing in the world.

Like all relationships, there were issues. The two weren’t without their differences. They clashed and quarrelled but only because they truly cared for each other. Patroclus wanted to end the war, and Achilles didn’t think the fight was worthy of his name: he wanted a bigger war to fight in. So, Patroclus, in his most bravest and stupid move goes against his lover’s wish and tries to end the war with a stroke of his sword. But he is no Achilles: he is not a god of war. He was out of his depth, outmatched and doomed.

It could only end in tragedy


- "Achilles Laments the Death of Patroclus" 1767.

I’ve not included a spoiler warning because everybody knows the story of Homer’s Iliad. Well, at least, I hope they do! Following the traditional narrative arc, Achilles goes on a mad rampage to avenge the death of his beloved. In the process he simultaneously destroys and immortalises himself. He got what he wanted, but not in the way he wanted it. I love the way the author wrote this, I could really feel the desperate rage of an Achilles who had lost the only thing that mattered to him in the world.

I’m so glad the author didn’t deviate from the suggestions of homosexuality that were present in Homer’s writing. This would have failed dramatically had she done so. There would have been no power, and, again, like the film Troy it would have been abysmal. The romance plot in here is one of the truest and believable I’ve read to date: it was strong and real. However, this is not to downplay the other aspects of the story. It is driven by romance, but it is not defined by it. There is also a story of growth, and the story of warrior who is out to prove his strength and honour in a world driven by war. He just happens to like guys.

A strong four stars

p.s- I’ve purposely avoided images of the movie Troy in this review. Anybody who has seen it and read this book really shouldn’t be putting the two side by side, at least, not if they want to make their review fair. One is an insult to the story, the other a novelisation of a timeless classic.


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for Navessa.
Author 10 books7,513 followers
July 20, 2021

Watch the video review here:

"Achilles. Who was he if not miraculous, and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?"

Reading this is like reading Romeo and Juliet. We all know the story. We all know the outcome. We all know that our desperate prayers for someone, anyone to step in and save these characters from themselves will fall on deaf ears.

Gods. What a bloody trainwreck. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I was not prepared for how much I cared.

This is the story of the fall of Troy. Or rather, a part of it. More specifically, this is the tale of Achilles and Patroclus. Of their undying love for each other. Of the lives they sacrifice on the altar of that love. Of desperate men and petty gods. Of a proud, greedy people engaged in a prolonged, bloody war.

So often in historical fiction from this time period I see the sharp edges of the Ancient Greek and Roman cultures smoothed away. I see slaves treated well and women given a voice. I'm happy to say there was none of that bullshittery here. Miller paints the pages of this book in blood and suffering. It is awash with pain and brutality. As it should be. Because historical accuracy.

But, it means that this book is not for everyone. There is a lot of sexism, misogyny, violence, bloodshed, and rape, mentioned almost offhand, because, to these characters, this behavior is commonplace. Expected. I didn't like a single one of them. And not just because of their worldviews. There was Achilles and his hubris. Patroclus and his uselessness. Thetis and her coldness. I didn't even like Odysseus and his famous wit, for there was an edge to it in this book that made him seem less charming and more manipulative than I remember.

That said, as much as I disliked these characters, I loved their stories. Miller took gods and legends and brought them to life within the pages of this book. She humanized these mythical beings in a way that made them seem real, fallible.

I just...I cannot say enough about this book. To me, this is literature at its finest. A beautifully written, masterfully crafted story capable of transporting readers within its pages, so enchanting them with what they find within that they forget that the real world lurks without, waiting for their return.

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Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 495 books402k followers
November 8, 2013
A new take on the Iliad, written by a high school classics teacher -- how could I not read this? The Song of Achilles retells the story of Greece's greatest hero from the point of view of his best friend Patroclus. The big twist: Madeline Miller casts the story as a romance between Achilles and Patroclus. While staying true to Greek legends and the works of Homer, Miller creatively and convincingly fills in the blanks, giving Patroclus a back story that makes perfect sense, and tracing the friendship, and eventual romance, between the two young men in a way that casts a new light on the human side of the Trojan War.

I always found Achilles to be an unsympathetic character -- a brat, a bully, a big-headed jerk who knows he's the star player on the team and throws a tantrum if he gets put on the bench. Miller shows his unattractive qualities, but she also shows that Achilles is human. He's capable of love. He's deeply conflicted. He has a sense of humor and a gentle side. We see him through Patroclus's eyes, growing from a privileged child to a sensitive teen to a young man struggling to balance his personal feelings with the expectations of an entire country. If you've read the Iliad, you know that the story will have a tragic end, but it's also strangely uplifting and hopeful. I'll never be able to read about these characters the same way again, and that's a good thing. Reading The Song of Achilles put a new light on this ancient story. It was like watching a really good interpretation of a Shakespeare play. You think you know the story, but you're surprised to find how many layers of new meaning can be brought out by a smart production.

The book is certainly appropriate for YA and up. The prose is elegant in its simplicity. Miller gives Patroclus a Hemmingway-like directness. I read a New York Times review of this book which I thought patently unfair, complaining that the style made the book seem like a fast-food version of the Iliad. I think this misses the whole point of the story. Patroclus's mission in The Song of Achilles is to cut through the legend of the hero and show us the mortal side of demigod. He doesn't want the pompous metaphors and flowery hyperbole of a war epic to bury Achilles's other qualities -- his tenderness, his insecurity, his honesty and lack of guile. The Song of Achilles can serve as an excellent introduction or counterpoint to the study of the Iliad. It certainly made the story new and vibrant for me, despite how many times I've read Homer.
Profile Image for exploraDora.
541 reviews256 followers
March 5, 2023
***2 stars***

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I did not like this book. And I must confess that the fault partly lies with me, because I did not read the blurb before I dived in. After having loved Miller's Circe, it was a no-brainer that I'd want to read her take on the Trojan War - so I left it at that and just began reading. Lesson learned, because I wanted this to be more historical fiction, yet it was basically just romance fantasy - hence my disappointment.

In this tale the narrator is Patroclus, best friend and lover of Achilles. Even though I haven't read The Iliad (yet), and I know that Patroclus was not necessarily one of the greatest Greek warriors, I do know that he played a major role in the Greek victory over the Trojans. And Madeline chose to portray him as a weakling in her story, which I think is a shame.

From a romance novel point of view the love story between the two didn't work for me because I think that throughout the book Patroclus was too dependent and clingy and I don't like that type of relationship. His life only revolves around this great, beautiful hero and more often than not, it seemed that he was by Achilles' side on every step - even when he isn't supposed to be, he tags along anyway. I wish he was more of his own person, a more dynamic character and also a more competent fighter, instead of this physically weak person. I am a big enough romance fan, but at times this was too soapy for my taste.

From a mythological novel point of view - if you are seeking a book about the Greek and Trojan war, I personally suggest skipping this one. In my opinion it is barely a retelling of myth, because only writing about the private lives, loves and bedrooms of classical gods/demigods/heroes does nothing to make us understand the grounds on which classicism was built. For me it was disappointing, since I really wanted the richness of the actual story and not just romance. Not only was Patroclus and Achilles' love story the main focus, it was pretty much the only subject matter throughout. Could have been really well done if the events of Troy were more thoroughly framed in the context of the love story.

But hey! If you're looking for a socially relevant, modern treatment of a classic tale or simply for some romance fantasy, this might be the perfect read for you!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,536 reviews9,779 followers
May 16, 2023
I hereby award ALL THE STARS in the universe to The Song of Achilles, a story equal parts epic and heartbreaking.

Furthermore, this is absolute audiobook gold!!!

I knew nothing about this going in, besides the fact that it is based off the events in Homer's epic, The Illiad.

Despite the fact that I took 4-years of Latin in high school, I couldn't tell you the first thing about The Illiad.

I was completely floored by the absolute beauty of this story, which centers around the love between Achilles and Patroclus.

Admittedly, I am not an avid romance reader. Oftentimes, the romance will be my least favorite aspect of a given story, but for some reason, this one struck me straight in the feels.

There was something so pure and confident in their love.

They were loyal, brave and kind to one another in a way that had me reaching for the tissues instead of choking down my mirth.

I just knew from my level of attachment that this one wasn't going to end well for me. I was fully anticipating to end up as a puddle on the floor.

I was overwhelmed by the intensity of feeling this story was able to elicit from my cold, dark heart.

The Ice Queen hath officially melteth.

If you are considering reading this yourself, for whatever reason, I cannot recommend the audiobook enough.

This narrator absolutely nailed the feeling of the story. His voices for all characters was just so expressive and was always recognizable for who he was portraying at the time.

In particular, his voice when speaking as Achilles, straight up Chris Hemsworth. Honestly, not a bad picture to have in mind whilst listening to a book.

To sum it all up:


The world would indeed be a better place if this book were required reading. I honestly believe that.
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
282 reviews504 followers
October 13, 2021
"The never-ending ache of love and sorrow."

There are a few books I come across everyday while going through my GR feed, and The Song of Achilles is at top of that list. Rightly so, I have to agree, the heart-wrenching ending notwithstanding. Spoiling this book for future readers would be a crime, so while I'm sharing my thoughts, I'll do my best not to overshare.

"We obey our kings, but only within reason."

Patroclus - the lesser known hero - being the protagonist helps narrate the story of Achilles from a very unique standpoint. While the sequence of events does follow the Trojan war, war part only feels like a sub-plot which complements the main plot beautifully. The reader would rarely await the outcomes of war, for, the amazing and somewhat poetic narrative keeps one deeply immersed in the feelings of the main character. Still, you'll come across the brutalities of war as well, and how they change the characters and their personalities as the story progresses.

"I find the folly of men amusing."

As I was finishing the first half of the book, it didn't feel that eventful or impressive in itself. Sure, it was interesting and had a nice flow to it, with some intricate details about both Achilles and Patroclus, but it didn't feel like anything new: a regular romance novel. But as you finish through the last chapters, those seemingly uneventful - though quite emotional - first half will deepen the reader's emotions profoundly. I think a re-read of this might prove very difficult, especially with the first half, with being familiar with the ending. Still, you'll definitely re-read this.

"No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from."

It might be easy to hate Achilles during the latter half of the story, based on some of his decisions, and rightly so. But, I think it's a good thing that the author did not alter his character to fix those flows. The objective of the story was never to portrait the greatness of Achilles. And as for the ending: it was as emotional and beautiful as it could be. Madeline Miller had done justice to Patroclus with The Song of Achilles perfectly.
" 'Go,' she says. 'He waits for you.' "
Profile Image for Yun.
513 reviews19.8k followers
May 23, 2023
"Name one hero who was happy . . . You can't . . . I'll tell you a secret . . . I'm going to be the first."
Achilles is destined to become the greatest warrior of his generation. But before that, he is just a boy growing up in Phthia with his devoted companion Patroclus by his side. The two are sent away to the mountains to be trained, but it isn't long before war comes calling when Helen of Troy is kidnapped. Achilles is forced to choose between eternal glory and mediocrity, but with greatness comes a price that Achilles and Patroclus will both have to pay.

Well, now I feel a bit silly for having waited so long to read this! If I had known how remarkable and thrilling of a tale The Song of Achilles is, I would have gobbled it up years ago.

I thought it was really interesting that this story is told from Patroclus's perspective. In Greek mythology, Patroclus is a minor character and hardly ever mentioned, but he is central to this tale. And through his eyes, we are able to see all the facets of Achilles: the making of a hero though still a boy at heart, shining and bright, easily seduced by glory, and ultimately a tragic figure.

It's not easy to take a beloved and much-revered story and make it your own, but Miller did a masterful job. This retelling feels fresh and sharp, relevant to the modern audience while still staying true to the original material. It has everything you would expect from Greek mythology: love, war, glory, sacrifice, and redemption. I was hooked from the first page to the last.

This has one of the best endings I've come across in a long time. It isn't so much what happens as the way it is written. Visceral and gut-wrenching, it builds in power and emotion until I was good and blubbering. It gave me all the feels.

It took me so long to get to this book. I think I was afraid it wouldn't live up to all the hype I'd heard over the years. But it was worth the wait. Stunning, epic, and beautifully-written, it's a coming-of-age story, but also one of war and love and sacrifice. It's truly a memorable tale.

See also, my thoughts on:

Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
401 reviews3,489 followers
March 10, 2023
Please don’t start a war but Lisa of Troy rates this 5 stars

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of classic Greek mythology involving Patroclus and Achilles, specifically covering the battle of Troy.

Earlier this week, I read some original Greek mythology, a play called Medea by Euripides (and yes Medea and her husband Jason are referenced in The Song of Achilles). It was written in 431 BC, more than 2,400 years ago. Greek mythology is incredibly interesting. The characters are unique, imperfect, have a rich and interesting backstory, and don’t necessarily conform to gender norms. The play itself only takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to read. However, because the language is so archaic, I spent more time referring to reference materials on Medea than it took me for the actual reading.

This book is brilliant because the language has been modernized. This reads much smoother than Medea. The action is fast-paced, and the writing style of short paragraphs makes for a quick read. Additionally, the storytelling itself is incredible. The author tells the story in a very compelling way. Instead of focusing on guts and glory, Miller weaves in the romance between Patroclus and Achilles. She also sets the stage for fascinating political and moral dilemmas.

Overall, this was an incredible emotional journey, and one of the best (if not the best) retellings that I have ever read.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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913 reviews401 followers
August 26, 2012
I am going to disagree with the Orange Prize committee. I am going to disagree with thousands of goodreads reviewers. This book is crap.

Okay, all you trolls. Go ahead and tell me what a philistine I am, how ignorant I am of Greek literature and mythology, and how my failure to appreciate this book reflects my limitations rather than those of the book. You don't really need to bother defending this book, because the masses seem to agree with you.

But if you ask me, this was a Harlequin. Boring Patroclus is wholly infatuated with the impossibly perfect Achilles, who, even more impossibly, returns Patroclus's passion. Lots of purple prose, lots of love, daring battles, blah, blah, blah. I got about halfway through and decided I was finished wasting my time.

I'm fine with Patroclus and Achilles being in love, but a little complexity PLEASE. How about some characterization? How about some relationship tension from within, not just without?

I've read some glorified Harlequins that managed to break my snob barrier -- Outlander and Water for Elephants to name just two. Sadly, this one didn't. Perhaps this was, in part, because all the accolades led me to expect something far more literary or deep. And maybe had I read The Iliad I would be more excited by the references and more forgiving of the book's flaws.

So feel free not to take my word for it, but I found this book incredibly disappointing.
Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
477 reviews38.1k followers
July 26, 2021

i fucking hate it here!!!!!! NNGNHGHGHH HEEEELLPPPPPPPPP!()!@#*!@)#$&! SOMEONE LAUNCH ME INTO THE FRICKING SUN PLEASEE!~@$ @ !!!!!!!

watch my video about this book here!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNvYX...

Profile Image for booksnpenguins (wingspan matters).
757 reviews2,315 followers
August 1, 2022
ACHILLES, it reads. And beside it, PATROCLUS.

Can anyone please call my boss and let her know I may not go to work for a week or so? I need time to recover from this book that m u r d e r e d me.

No kidding, here. I think getting a Brazilian wax wouldn't have hurt this much.
I'm an ugly sobbing mess, running nose and hair pulling included.
What a-wow! I have no words.
I can't remember the last time a book made me weep so much.
This is honestly the kind of book I prefer: zero dull moments, fast-paced, character characterization (lol what is this) on point, and stuffed with all the feels and angst a novel is capable of containing.
It was wonderful, poetic and the writing was 100/10 perfect.
If you haven't read it already, please do yourself a favor and give it a try.

Goooosh, I'm still shaking.
Favorite book of 2017!

A huge thanks goes to this gorgeous lady for recommending it to me. You were right, I did do love it! <3
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.2k followers
April 12, 2023
Real fans already know: I'm heartless. I'm soulless. My resting temperature is 35 degrees Fahrenheit and I have a deep abyss where my cardiac system is supposed to be.

So it shouldn't be surprising to anyone who is familiar with me that this book didn't make me feel much of anything.

I didn't read the Percy Jackson books in elementary school (I was too busy sneaking into the teen section at the library and reading books that would cause me to ask my mom what a blowjob is at 9 years old). I don't read much historical fiction now. Mythology generally is like a worse version of fairytales in my mind.

Anyway this was a recipe for disaster, is what I'm saying, and instead it was just. Kind of boring? To me.

So really that's a compliment, I guess.

Bottom line: Not my cup of tea!


me and madeline miller just don't get along.

review to come / 3 stars

currently-reading updates

that day has arrived.

tbr review

saving this for a day i want to cry during
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.4k followers
March 23, 2022
‘we were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.’

i must be a masochist because i can think of no other reason to endure the emotional and stunning pain of this story for a fifth time. but here i am. crying for my sweet, sweet patroclus. the best of men. the best of the myrmidons. <3

its been nearly 12 hours since i finished this and i still am at a loss for words at the beauty of this book. i dont think i have ever read anything as gorgeous as this and nothing i write will even come close to describing its loveliness. truly, a touching masterpiece. and i will forever be singing its praises until the end of my days.

every star, to give patroclus his own constellation
Profile Image for l..
491 reviews2,072 followers
September 3, 2022
“When I die, bury my ashes with this book.”—every person who finished reading The Song of Achilles, ever.

“IN THE DARKNESS, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”
Profile Image for Claudia Lomelí.
Author 11 books75.2k followers
January 8, 2016

This and this and this.


Sólo edito esto para decirles que TIENEN QUE LEER ESTE LIBRO OMG. Favorito del año hasta ahora. Lo amo lo amo lo amo y no hago más que pensar en él. Definitivamente lo voy a releer.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
December 30, 2021
The writing is great and I enjoyed reading about the tender relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, but I'm not a fan of Greek mythology and thus couldn't care enough for the story unfortunately (especially since it gets so slow-paced during the war). I dig the ending though for the drama!
Profile Image for ;3.
394 reviews812 followers
February 14, 2020
yall remember tht part where it was like:

achilles: lol listen my mom can’t spy on us anymore 👅

patroclus: 👀

achilles: 👀
Profile Image for Maria.
65 reviews8,487 followers
April 3, 2021
patroclus: constantly gushing about achilles' outer and inner beauty, like 80% of the time
me: *remembering brad pitt's chiseled abs and legs in troy (2004)* same boi
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
November 29, 2019
”He was a marvel, shaft after shaft flying from him, spears that he wrenched easily from broken bodies on the ground to toss at new targets. Again and again I saw his wrist twist, exposing its pale underside, those flute-like bones thrusting elegantly forward. My spear sagged forgotten to the ground as I watched. I could not even see the ugliness of the deaths anymore, the brains, the shattered bones that later I would wash from my skin and hair. All I saw was his beauty, his singing limbs, the quick flickering of his feet.”

 photo e2a4aaa2-fecf-4666-97a8-c91c74ea946a_zpsayqxxibg.png

Madeline Miller studied Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University and even more interestingly studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales for a modern audience. I ignored this book when it first came out because I had read The Iliad twice and plan to read it many more times if the Gods grant me enough time to do so. A reimagining of Homer’s words? There is enough debate over translations of the original source documentation without adding in additional controversy over Miller’s interpretation of events.

Or so I thought.

After all, aren’t these books designed for a “modern audience” who will never even attempt to read Homer? I am not the target audience, as there is very little modern about me. I have ancient book dust permanently lodged in my lungs. I cough, and the air is redolent with the scent of decaying leather and the intoxicating smell of the slightly hallucinatory book fungi. Miller is doing good work, though, bringing Homer to life for a new generation. Her books are not for me.

Or so I thought.

When her book Galatea came out, I barely even flinched. A mild flickering of interest, but I was up to my eyeballs in books to read so I easily dissuaded myself from giving it much thought. Deciding to read Galatea would also mean that I would need to read Song of Achilles first because I do believe that books by serious authors build upon one another. I wasn’t taking Miller serious...yet. Part of my resistance came from the fact that I’m not a big fan of Achilles. He might have been ”The Greatest Warrior of his Generation,” but I didn’t find him very heroic. Now Hector, poor doomed Hector, to me he was the hero of The Iliad. I didn’t really want to read a book glorifying Achilles and how effortless it was for him to kill a hundred Trojans in one lazy, bloody afternoon.

Or so I thought.

 photo Madeline20Miller_zpssnztdhkm.jpg
The lovely and talented Madeline Miller.

I fully expected Miller to fade back into the woodwork of academia, but then this year she published Circe. With one raised Nadalesque eyebrow, I thought to myself, now Circe is someone I don’t know nearly enough about. The five star reviews started raining down on me like thunderbolts from the fingers of Zeus. Cupid shot a quiver full of arrows at me, piercing me in numerous appendages until I looked like Saint Sebastian. If I could have gotten my hands on that pink tinted, chubby, precocious toddler, I’d have turned him over my knee and paddled him with his own bow. Really, I must confess that my new found love for Achilles, Patroclus, Briseis, Chiron, Odysseus, and even Madeline Miller herself could be the result of those love poison tipped arrows. Regardless, does it matter the reason why?

Even in an addled state, there is no way I would ever confuse great writing for poorly conceived writing. As I was reading through my notes and savoring favorite passages again, now that Cupid’s fog has cleared from my mind, I must say Miller is a wonderful, lyrical writer.

It all begins with a rape. The Greek Gods want to reward Peleus for being such a good subject and decide that he should be given a sea nymph named Thetis as his bride. ”It was considered their highest honor. After all, what mortal would not want to bed a goddess and sire a son from her? Divine blood purified our muddy race, bred heroes from dust and clay. And this goddess brought a greater promise still: the Fates had foretold that her son would far surpass his father. Peleus’ line would be assured. But, like all the gods’ gifts, there was an edge to it; the goddess herself was unwilling.”

The Gods whisper in his ear. Don’t even bother trying to woo her with kelp flowers, Aquaoir Ocean aged wine, or shrimp cocktail. The Greek Gods, being rampant assaulters of unsuspecting, pink cheeked, mortal maidens, have no compunction about advocating rape. Jump her on the beach, take her, and make her thine!

The Greek Islands are lousy with half Gods. You will meet many of them in the course of this story. Achilles is the greatest of them all. Greater than Hercules. His chosen companion is Patroclus, the disgraced and banished son of a king, an odd choice in many eyes as the closest friend of the greatest warrior. Patroclus is, after all, rather unremarkable at...well...everything. It doesn’t matter, though, because Achilles is good enough at everything for the both of them.

Thetis is rather annoyed at his choice. She doesn’t feel that Patroclus is good enough to spend so much time with her son. Her favorite greeting for Patroclus is: ”You will be dead soon enough.” With Patroclus being the narrator of this story, it is rather poor judgement on her part. Any quest I’ve been on I have always plied the narrator with honeyed wine and the most succulent figs in the hope that I would be rewarded in the prose and poetry of his/her telling of the tale.

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Achilles and Patroclus by Barry J.C. Purves

Homer skates around the closeness between Achilles and Patroclus, although much can be read between the lines. There is also the possibility that some homophobic Christian hundreds of years later made some deft corrections to the original, obscuring any overt reference to a homosexual relationship. Homer may have been blind, but his ears must have heard the rustling of the reed mats whether he was an “eye” witness to the Trojan War or an interpreter of events many years later. Madeline Miller wades into the sweaty bedsheet truth of the matter, and yes, the Greatest Warrior to ever live is light in his sandals.

Miller puts flesh on these ancient bones, Gods and mortals alike, and brings a freshness to one of our most venerated stories. Though I resisted, it turns out that Madeline Miller was writing these books for me. She has also given me a burning desire to read The Iliad again while her interpretation is still imprinted so deeply in my mind. I have a feeling my reading experience will be deepened and her observations will glow like phosphorus between the lines.

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Profile Image for Petrik.
674 reviews42.8k followers
May 4, 2023
4.5/5 stars

Beautifully heartbreaking and tragic, Madelline Miller’s first novel burst with palpable emotions.

Countless amazing things have been raised and sang for the Miller’s craft on The Song of Achilles and Circe, and that speaks volumes on how ridiculous it is that it took me this long to finally get around to reading it. In truth, there was a hesitancy inside me; The Illiad, the stories of Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus are stories that I’ve read and heard about so many times before in several mediums. In my mind, before I read this book, I simply didn’t think that I would love reading another retelling surrounding this tale again. As you can guess from my high rating, Miller has righted the wrong notion that nestled deep in me.

“True. But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another." He spread his broad hands. "We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?" He smiles. "Perhaps one day even I will be famous. Perhaps more famous than you.”

If there’s one thing that we can agree and admire about Achilles, it would be his strength. Almost every story about the legend of Achilles portrayed him on a similar nature; he’s a mortal who possesses godlike abilities for battles. Bow down before his prowess. And it’s not like Miller didn’t include Achilles’ skills for devastation in her retelling; she did magnificently. However, Miller goes above and beyond by humanizing him through Patroclus’ eyes. Miller starts the story from Patroclus’ and Achilles’ childhood, and she successfully showed the genuine development in their characterizations and relationship that the passage of time can’t prevent.

“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

The entire novel is told exclusively through the first perspective of Patroclus, and this is what sets Miller’s retelling apart from so many other media. This reading experience reminded me of reading Lancelot by Giles Kristian. Both Giles Kristian and Madeline Miller did the same thing with their craft. Through Patroclus’ view, we get to see Achilles’ vulnerability, and we also get to see Achilles’ aptitude for virtues that most of the time were concealed in many retellings. I thought knowing how the journey will end for these characters would diminish my experience, but the opposite occurred; the hindsight in the finality of their story actually elevated my reading experience extensively. For example, there were lines—I won’t mention them in my review—about Hector repeatedly spoken by Achilles that act as a dagger that inflicted a sharp cut to the heart every time it’s unsheathed.

“There are no bargains between lion and men. I will kill you and eat you raw.”

There’s an enchanting quality in Miller’s prose. For almost a decade, hundreds of thousands of readers/reviewers around the world have been charmed by her writing style, and now you can definitely count me among these entranced readers. What I found to be the most incredible aspect of this novel is how well-conveyed were the feelings of the characters; they popped out of the pages effectively. It is always crucial to learn what truly matters in life and to never lose sight of them; trust, pride, jealousy, and the seduction of glory tests Patroclus’ and Achilles’ relationship to its maximum limit. The pacing was great, and the last five chapters of this novel capture the everlasting brilliance of the horror and tragedy in this tale. The sense of grief, the meteoric fury, and the comfort that love provides amidst blood and death felt profoundly physical to me.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”

The cover art of this book usually depicts the golden armor/helmet/lyre of Achilles, and there’s an underlying message behind these cover arts; it contains mandatory advice that you should prepare yourself before reading this book. Guard your heart and mind carefully; there’s a prophecy conjured that they won’t remain unscathed after you read the breathtaking lyrics written in The Song of Achilles. Every page was a bait to lure me away from reality, and I devour those bait willingly. I look forward to reading Circe very soon to witness more of Miller’s talent, and more importantly, to put her storytelling as an item to be locked in my memories.

“I am made of memories.”

Aren’t we all, Patroclus?

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1,295 reviews120k followers
January 13, 2022
I feel a bit silly doing this, but I have put a spoiler alert on this review, just in case there are folks out there who might not be versed in the classics.

In a nutshell, Boy meet demi-god. Boy gets demi-god. Boy loses demi-god. Wait, demi-god loses boy, goes a bit funny in the head and behaves badly. Greece loses demi-god, the happy couple wind up sharing an afterlife.

Madeline Miller - image from her site

You might want to dust off your Iliad, as this is a retelling of the story of Achilles, you know, the greatest warrior of his time, from that slightly older work. It is impressive, when looking up details from Miller’s novel, how directly her version corresponds to that of Homer.
It was very important to me to stay faithful to the events of Homer’s narrative. The central inspiration behind the book is the terrible moment in the Iliad when Achilles hears about Patroclus’ death. His reaction is shocking in its intensity. The great half-god warrior—who carelessly defies rules, and condemns a whole army to death—comes completely unglued, desperate with grief and rage. I wanted to understand what it was about Patroclus and their relationship that could create that kind of crisis. Although Homer tells us what his characters do, he doesn’t tell us much of why they do it. Who was Achilles? And why did he love Patroclus so much?
Patroclus is a twelve-year-old prince down on his luck. Born of a damaged mother and possessed of none of the obvious gifts that make fathers proud, he defends himself against a bully. The bully slips, falls, coshes his deserving skull on a rock and the planet is one bully lighter. Oops, sorry. But since the bully was a royal, Pops exiles Patroclus to the island of Phthia. (Go ahead, try to say it out loud, five times fast, or at all. You know you want to. Sounds like Parseltongue to me.) Luckily for him, the island’s king, Peleus, is kind and receptive. In fact he seems to have made a business of re-treading unwanted, or in-need-of-training blue-bloods, running a sort of island of lost royalty, a military training camp for boys. He is also father to the luminous Achilles. The questionably-heeled one (BTW, the heel never enters the story here. As Miller explains on her website, it was added to the myth of Achilles way later, by the Romans) is presented in such glowing terms that we are uncertain if the author is elevating him to the level of Homeric perfection, or we are seeing the externalization of the smitten Patroclus’ achy smitten-ness. In any case, Achilles turns out to be a pretty decent sort, and takes Patroclus under his wing, even inviting him to share his room. In time it gets steamy. Boys have, well, needs, and their inclinations, it turns out, are in synch. Thankfully the soft-core element of this story cools down enough to give us a look at the times, the idiocy of the Trojan War, and the ridiculousness of leadership, which does not seem to have changed all that much over the millennia. While some physical intimacy is noted, the author very much focuses on the affection between the two as a moving force.

What one gets here is a touch and feel (go ahead and snicker) of what life might have been like at the time of the Trojan War. And it sounds like they could have used a few of the more contemporary Trojans, what with unintended pregnancies and all. Patroclus is our eyes and ears, but he is not merely a plot device. He is a fleshed-out character with significant conflicts to resolve, and growth to endure. Miller says,
In writing this novel, I thought a lot about personal responsibility. Patroclus is not an epic person, the way Achilles is. He’s an “ordinary” man. But he has more power than he thinks, and the moments where he reaches out to others and offers what he sees as his very modest assistance have huge positive ramifications. Most of us aren’t Achilles—but we can still be Patroclus. What does it mean to try to be an ethical person in a violent world?
You will have to suspend your disbelief a bit, as magical things do happen. Just as Homer included magical elements in his epic, so Miller follows. Gods do indeed engage themselves in human affairs. Achilles is the product of a human father and a fishy-dearest sea nymph of a mother. The lads are trained by a centaur, Chiron, who is a pretty cool character, (fans of Harry Potter will recognize in Chiron the source for Hogwarts’ own Firenze, also a teacher of medicine, and overall good guy) and of course the gods can’t help but interfere with the doings of men, like early-version Koch Brothers with training in the Dark Arts. Miller takes the odd liberty here and there. Patroclus, for example, was older than Achilles in the Iliad. They are the same age here. But The Song of Achilles is a novel.

Miller gets her important facts right. Of course, the facts have to do with re-creating the story told by the great Greek poet, not, you know, actual facts. Unless of course you are one of those who believes that Achilles’ mother, Thetis, really was a sea nymph, or that the actual Greek gods personally interfered with the goings on down below. There are plenty of people who believe stranger things. In fact, the clearly homosexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is sure to raise the hackles of folks who hold beliefs of a more contemporary theistic bent. Expect to see calls for this book to be banned in the usual places. But really, it’s the 21st century. Get over it. If it was good enough for the Iliad…

Miller is a classics scholar and teacher and knows her stuff. What she has done here is take the eternal tale and re-tell it in a manner that is easy to read. In fact it is so easy to read that it felt like a YA title to me. Maybe too easy? She does teach high-schoolers, so I expect that was her target demographic, but it still seemed a bit young to me.

While I have no philosophical issue with the same-sex element of the tale, I found the youthful pining and sex scenes mushy and maybe gag-worthy, but once the pairing is secured, the story is free to flow back to Homer’s tale. It does so smoothly and well.

One benefit of this book is that it offers young readers an entrée to one of the great works of literature in a more accessible form. I expect that Miller will eventually get around to producing another modern interpretation from the classics. In the meantime, if you are a student, seek this lady out and take her classes. She seems to me like the sort of teacher we all dreamed of having and rarely got, in love with her material and able to communicate it well.

Review first posted – February 3, 2012

Publication dates (USA)
----------March 6, 2012 - hardcover
----------August 28, 2012 - trade paperback

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Definitely check out Miller’s web site, one of the better author sites I have seen. She is on FB and Twitter too.

My review of Miller's 2018 novel, Circe

My review of Natalie Hynes' A Thousand Ships - a view from the perspective of the female characters of The Iliad and The Odyssey

May 30, 2012 - The Song of Achilles wins the 2012 Orange Award

August 27, 2021 - The Guardian - Madeline Miller on The Song of Achilles: ‘It helped people come out to their parents’ - a wonderful piece on how she came to write Song of Achilles
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
October 23, 2022
A fate prophesised by the gods, but a song that still needed to be sung, and music that future generations would continue to play !!!

‘The Song of Achilles’ is a beautifully orchestrated retelling of one of Greek Mythology’s best known and best loved stories of the Siege at Troy and life of the legendary demi-god Achilles. A lyrical masterpiece that portrays the human side of the man, the lover, and the warrior who is destined to fulfil a prophecy that sees him fall after the death of Hector, sustaining the iconic Achilles heel injury.

A story that is epic, timeless, and sad but told with great sentiment, heart, and soul. A book that does not try to recount the historical events of the past and the myths but rather embellishes them to play the song of Achilles.

The Plot (skip if you know the plot)

“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”

Achilles meets Patroclus at school at the age of twelve, and soon the unlikely pairing of these two boys becomes a deep friendship. Wanting to separate the two boys and to begin Achilles life’s teachings, Achilles’ mother Thetis, sends him off to the centaur Chiron for three years to learn literature, nature, sacrifice, and the art of battle. However, not to be torn away from his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into the caves and remains with him for three years as the love between the two blossoms.

Following the legendary story of Helen of Troy, Achilles is asked to join Agamemnon’s forces to defend his brothers honour after Paris steels the beautiful Helen from her home. And now Achilles must fight for the honour of the most beautiful woman in the world, against the mightiest city of the east. A journey to Aulis and then Troy that will seal the fate of these two men.

“The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death. Yes, I whispered. Yes”

Review and Comments

The Song of Achilles is first a love story and a tragedy but then the best love stories make the best tragedies and ‘The Song of Achilles’ meets all those expectations. Whilst there is no shortage of books that take their inspiration from centuries old stories of Greek Mythology, few will be ambitious enough to venture on a retelling of one of Greek Mythology’s best loved stories and Achilles life story from boyhood, and the boy who became a man and an infamous warrior.

In doing so Miller tells of a love story that is sentimental but not overflowing in its protestations of love, a relationship that is touching but not overly emotional and a tale of two men human, flawed, imperfect but who each bring depth of character in their roles and strong in their principles but protective of each other.

What I liked less was the slow burn nature of a book in the first half when the period and story already offered so much for the author to embellish.

Nevertheless, this is a small point in a book that was truly stunning in its story telling, a brilliant work of fiction interwoven with the myths, legends and the greatest stories told in Greek mythology. A book that has modernised the legendary work of Homer but stayed true to the core of the Iliad and Achilles homosexuality. A human portrayal of a demi-god who loves, fights, and conquers. Yet it is his stubbornness and unyielding pride that is ultimately his downfall, but then again it was always written in the song – and if “..Music be the food of love. Play on” (William Shakespeare).

4/5 stars
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
August 7, 2018
“Why would I kill Hector? What has Hector ever done to me?”

Fun Fact of the Day: I was in a Latin class my freshman year where the teacher mentioned how gay Achilles was every single sentence. She could not bring up these two without mentioning that they were believed to be in a romantic relationship. That's honestly at least half the reason I picked this book up, so thanks, Magistra Vasquez, for being so extra. Can't wait to have you again next year for AP Latin. Can probably wait for the rest of my life before I translate the entire Aeneid, but that's okay.

The Song of Achilles is a romantic retelling of the Illiad. It's written with gorgeous prose, but that's not what really stands out about this novel. Emotion drips from the pages, making it impossible not to at least tear up through the book.

For the first 150 pages, this book is a simple romance. While these two main characters are well-built and interesting, I didn't feel much emotion. That all changed over time. As the war begins, Patroclus slowly begins to realize and acknowledge Achilles' faults, leading to a steady character change for him. Both these characters developed so much and were so flawed, yet so interesting.

The mythology of this is fairly accurate and interesting– sure, some of the plot points around Briseus were far-fetched, but nothing here is disproved by the mythological canon. That made me really happy, although I know many won't really care. For those of you who need reference on key players:
✔Agamemnon, an asshole, abandoning his wife Clytemnestra
✔Menelaus, another asshole, missing his wife Helen
✔Odysseus, a mixed man, missing his wife Penelope
✔Helen, a daughter of Leda and Zeus but raised by Tyndareus, and deeply in love

Highly recommended just for sheer emotion and character development.

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