The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

 The mythical age of Greek heroes – this is a retelling of the Trojan Wars of The Iliad by Homer. Our narrator is Patroclus, an awkward young prince, exiled from his own lands to the kingdom of Phthia under the guardianship of King Peleus and his dazzling son Achilles.   Achilles is all that Patroclus is not – the gifted son of a goddess, strong, agile, skilled and beautiful; yet the two boys form a lasting and devoted friendship. As they grow into manhood, both now skilled warriors and healers, their friendship takes a deeper more sensuous turn – much to the horror of Achilles’s mother Thetis.  And so, when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy, and, as a young man seeking glory, Achilles willingly joins the fight. Tormented by fear for Achilles and his lost love, Patroclus follows him into battle, unaware of the years of anguish that will follow.  This is a profoundly moving novel, a devastating love story and a stunningly imaginative retelling of the triumphant battles between peace and glory, gods and kings, immortals and humans and the fragility and beauty of love and devotion. Madeline Miller deservedly won the 2012 Orange Prize with this debut novel. The prose is engaging and light, the dialogue lyrical and the retelling of this timeless tale is imaginative and refreshingly humanising. This is a most satisfying read.