The Blurb (from Goodreads):
in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.
I love Greek myths, and studied the two great Homeric poems ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ at uni. All I really remember about Achilles, though, was that he was a great hero of the Trojan war, and supposedly invulnerable except for one tiny weak spot - his heel. This is because his mother dipped him in the Styx, the river that separates the land of the dead from the land of the living, when he was only a baby. The only part of his body that remained dry was his heel, which was clasped in her hand. He was later killed by being shot in this heel by a poisoned arrow.
Anyway, I wanted to read this book not because of any great desire to know more about Achilles, but because I had loved Madeline Miller’s novel Circe so much. I found The Song of Achilles just as compelling, powerful and moving (well, almost! Circe is very hard to beat).
Basically, this is a gay love story. It is told from the point-of-view of Achilles’s best friend, Patroclus, beginning when they are only boys and ending with the great, gory, tragic Trojan Wars. Do not be afraid if you do not know much about Troy, or ‘The Iliad’, or ancient Greece. You do not need to. Madeline Miller’s greatness lies in her ability to take these ancient stories of love and war and gods and heroes, and make them real and immediate.
I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, as it’s impossible to do so without spoiling this heart-breaking and beautiful story. All I really need to say is that Madeline Miller has vaulted into the upper regions of my most beloved authors of all time. I will buy anything she writes, the moment it is published.
You might also like to read my review of Circe by Madeline Miller: