Book Tok Review #1: The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles is a must read tragic romance.


The Song of Achilles most recent paperback cover

Charlotte Stone, Staff Writer

If you are looking to read The Song of Achilles, then you better get ready to cry your eyes out. This tragic love story, written by Madeleine Miller, breathes fresh air into the age-old myth of Achilles and Patroclus. It is a 21st-century reworking of Homer’s classic, the Illiad, which recounts the events of the Trojan War. However, Miller’s new version is narrated by Patroclus, Achilles’ life-long best friend and only love.

The story begins when Patroclus, a young Greek prince, is exiled from his home after an act of shocking violence and forced to live in the foreign land of Phthia as an orphan. Patroclus is adopted by the king of Phthia who offers to house many exiled young men in order to train them to join his army. Patroclus generally keeps his head low and is successful in avoiding most of the other boys who want nothing to do with him, except for one. Achilles for some reason is drawn to Patroclus and what started as jealousy blossoms into a beautiful friendship.

Soon the boys become inseparable and spend practically every minute together in the years of training leading up to the Trojan War. By the time the war arrives Achilles is forced to make a difficult decision involving his future glory and heads off to battle. Patroclus, torn between fear of violence, due to his poor fighting skills, and his love for Achilles, follows.

Miller’s touching tale seems effortless, but the writing process was far from it. The Song of Achilles, Miller’s first book, was ten years in the making and took extensive research. However, Miller was well prepared, seeing as she has a BA and MA in both Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University and studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical stories for a modern audience.

Although this is Miller’s first book, you would never be able to tell. Not only is the story itself very impressive, but so is her creative, almost poetic, writing style. She is able to make even the crudest subjects elegant and beautiful.

Finally, this book includes some much-needed LGBTQ+ representation. Since being queer was never really widely accepted until very recently, the topic of gay romance is virtually erased from history books. Even if famous historical figures were gay, it was very rarely known or recorded. This same problem is prevalent in the case of Patroclus and Achilles. Although it was rumored that Achilles and Patroclus were more than friends and they were buried side by side, historians love to refer to them as “companions” or “partners.” It is hard to ignore the many signs pointing towards their romantic relationship, so I am relieved that Miller took it upon herself to set the record straight.

Whether you’re looking for tragedy, romance, historical fiction, or fantasy, The Song of Achilles is a worthwhile read. Even if you’re not looking to read a tragedy, the book’s devastating ending is satisfying and definitely worth it.