Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller

This book took me a long time for me to read. Not because it isn't brilliant, because it is, but because the number one thing that makes me sad is media where the characters are happy and I know that something tragic is going to happen to them. Dramatic irony like that absolutely kills me. And since I have read The Illiad since, you know, I went to college, I knew what was going to happen.

I picked up this book at least five times before I made my way through it as, the first few times I tried, I got to the third page where Patroclus sees Achilles for the first time, my heart ached and I put it down again. I knew I had to read it, though, and one day, I just pushed through. I'm so glad I did.

The narrator of this book is Patroclus and he tells his life story, from when he was a small boy and saw Achilles for the first time at a sports event to the end of the Trojan War. Patroclus narrates his life with humor and amusement, as well as reflection and understanding. He's a ridiculously charming narrator and very easy to relate to, ignoring the fact that he's an ancient greek.

The writing style of this book is beautiful. It's simple and easy, bringing subjects that are usually told of in epic poems (and thus a bit hard to swallow) into a modern age where things just seem to work. Beyond that, the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is absolutely beautiful. This book, to be honest, is more of a love story than anything. The relationship between the boys is the stuff of fairy tales and to explore it through Miller's writing is a treat.

It does get a bit hard to read towards the end, as you see the inevitable coming towards these two characters that you have watched grow and become great men. I started crying about forty pages before the end and didn't stop until about an hour after I finished. To be honest, I found it a bit funny that I was sitting in bed and crying about the Trojan War. The last few pages, however, are just spot on perfect and the kind of thing that books were created for, to show images like that.

This book won the Orange Prize for 2012 and it's clear to see why. It's an original take on an ancient tale, turning an epic story into a simple tale of two boys growing together. It's full of love and life, skill and song and every sort of thing a book should have. It's one of the best books I've ever read and I think you should go and read it. Yes, you.

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