‘The Song Of Achilles’ puts modern twist on classic myth
There is a growing feeling that the study of classics is becoming irrelevant. Many view its texts as being high-level and elitist. But as this problem continues to grow, many people have taken the opportunity to translate classic tales into a narrative that everyone can enjoy. Madeline Miller, a Greek and Latin teacher from Massachusetts, tackled the classic tale of The Iliad through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’ best friend.
Among classicists there is a theory that the friendship between Patroclus and Achilles, as it is described by Homer in The Iliad, involved much more than friendship. Miller decided to explore this idea in her book The Song of Achilles. Many people have read the relationship between the Patroclus and Achilles as a romantic one because of the gifts that are exchanged in The Iliad and Achilles’ famous reaction of rage provoked by Patroclus’ death.
The Song of Achilles is narrated by Patroclus, which allows for the author to give the mythological background of both Achilles and Patroclus. She expertly weaves together the stories of all the Greek heroes who were involved in the Trojan War. This perspective allows Miller to explore the complexities of the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles.
Miller created a story that respects Homer’s epic poem but also explores the unique facets of Greek life. She plays with the idea of fate and destiny, and even if the reader is familiar with the original tale, they are still ready to believe that this story will have a happy ending. The Greek heroic standards and expectations are exposed to a new light, while also having a tone of wonder about the Greek mythology that Miller has chosen to study.
This book took Miller 10 years to write, and the work and effort that she has put into this book comes across in the amount of detail included in the story. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is filled with friendship, love and electricity that jumps off the page and into the life of the reader. Their love and relationship is believable and beautiful, and makes this ancient story seem as relevant today as ever.
The Song of Achilles was met with wide acclaim and given the Orange Prize for Fiction, which is one of the most prestigious fiction awards in the United Kingdom. The novel has managed what could be considered a near impossible task: bringing a magnificent classic tale to a new, contemporary audience with power and poise.
The book is an unbelievable accomplishment and I could not put it down. As someone who has studied the original tale, The Song of Achilles allowed me to engage with Homer’s text on a whole new level. But for those who are unfamiliar with the original story, have no fear. The Song of Achilles is so well written that it’s hard not to love it.
Miller has created a story that is captivating in every sense of the word, and I highly recommend it. This book allows the reader to truly experience the mythic lives of two of literature’s most enduring and fascinating characters.