Cannonball Read 5, Book 8: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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So here’s the thing. I’m permanently scarred by Wolfgang Petersen. We all remember the first trailer for Troy, don’t we? More specifically, everyone remembers the final shot of that trailer, the seemingly endless pull back revealing more and more ships sailing for Troy. And then the film was a giant steaming pile of crap. So when I read about this book, the idea of it (the legend of Achilles, retold in modern prose) was that trailer shot. And I was so loath to read it, in case it ended up being, well, Troy. 

I need not have worried. The Song of Achilles is told in the first person by Patroclus, who is exiled to Achilles’ father’s kingdom after killing another boy by accident. He admires Achilles from afar until a friendship begins. The friendship deepens into a love affair and after a few blissfully happy years, as we all know, Paris kidnaps Helen and starts A Really Big War.

Since Miller rightly assumes we all know how that war ends, the actual battles that take place are barely mentioned. The focus is firmly on the fallout of it, along with the effect it has on Patroclus and Achilles. It is absolutely wondrous. The language is blunt, straightforward yet somehow so evocative. The unwavering loyalty between the two boys, as they become men, is gorgeously told. The ending we all know is coming still breaks your heart. This was the perfect antidote to Petersen’s travesty. Delightful.

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4 thoughts on “Cannonball Read 5, Book 8: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

  1. Pingback: Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #08: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | Cannonball Read V

  2. I’ve heard so many good things about this book. I really want to read it. You made it sound great as well. : ) I do like that she doesn’t really go into the battle because she assumes we’ve all heard about it by now.

  3. It spends a fair chunk of time dealing with the war caused by Helen’s kidnapping, but it focuses almost entirely on the day to day stuff with the camps, the medics, all the stuff that is not normally dwelt on.

  4. I agree, this book is fantastic. After finishing it I spent time looking for another brilliant retelling of Greek mythology, to no avail. I only hope the authors next book is as good as this one.

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