Sunday, April 8, 2012

A very heartbreaking love story

Hmmm . . . love stories. Just the thought of holding a book about love is enough to make my teeth ache. It's a good thing that I didn't know that Madeline Miller's debut novel, The Song of Achilles, is rooted on love, and a very different kind of love at that.

The Song of Achilles, at its core, is about the bond between two men -- Patroclus and Achilles. The novel opens during Patroclus's childhood, when he was exiled to the land of Phthia. The son of a lesser king, Patroclus meets Achilles during his exile, for Phthia is the land of Peleus, an honorable king and the father of Achilles. It is in Phthia where Achilles decides to take Patroclus as companion. Patroclus even follows to Mount Pelion, where he and Achilles are taught by the centaur Chiron.

Of course, as the novel is rooted in mythology, there will be prophecies. And one such prophecy is the death of Achilles after he slays Hector in the siege of Troy. Achilles, having been known as the best of the Greeks, take part in the campaign to get Helen and return her to her husband, Melanaus.

We all know that Achilles dies, but Miller chooses to focus instead on the sacrifice made by Patroclus. In Patroclus, we have a character who embodies the concept of unselfish love. He knows that Achilles will die, he knows that there can be no redeeming aspect in the war against Troy. Still, Patroclus does take part in the battle, causing him his life and Achilles's despair.
He weeps as he lifts me onto our bed. My corpse sags; it is warm in the tent, and the smell will come soon. He does not seem to care. He holds me all night long, pressing my cold hands to his mouth. [page 340]
The Song of Achilles is one tender love story involving two very different characters -- Patroclus, the disgraced and clumsy son of a lesser king, and Achilles, the golden hero and the son of a goddess. I'm not sure if this romantic concept is based on the Iliad, but I couldn't care less. The novel is such a joy to read.

The author has a background on Latin and Ancient Greek, and she's been known to make modern adaptations of classical tales. Yay! Maybe this means that she'll be writing another captivating novel soon! But for the meantime, I think I'll be reading the Iliad, after having been inspired by The Song of Achilles.

Read this book if:
  1. You love mythology.
  2. You want a different take on the siege of Troy.
  3. You're into debut fiction.


Michael Silva said...

I'm amazed on how fast you read, Peter! Galing.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Michael! Nah, there's just too many holidays lately. :-)

Orly said...

My gosh! You really write that quick! Thanks again, for recommending this book, friend! I'm devouring it, the way Patroclus admiringly devours Achilles!

Peter S. said...

You're welcome, Orly!

sundersartwork said...

Might read it, i do wish they would fund librarys more in England. There so important to literacy rates.
Bromance was always big back in Ancient Greece. Ancient besties are all over the history books.

Peter S. said...

Hi, sundersartwork! Yes, very important indeed!

Orly said...

Ancient Greek art and literature is brimming with Pederasty. I once came across a literary essay on Achilles and Patroclus back in college, but did not take it seriously, thinking it was too over-the-top.

Oh yes, there are devices in The Iliad that supports Miller's romantic point.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Orly! I'm really glad you liked this book!

Monique said...

I will take your word for it and find myself a copy of this. ;)

Peter S. said...

Go, go, go, Monique! You can get it from NBS!