Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Song Of Achilles-review

I just finished the debut novel of Madeline Miller The Song of Achilles which won the  Orange Prize of Fiction this year and I'm really impressed. A take on the classic Iliads,The Song of Achilles explores the relationship of Achilles with his comrade/companion Patroclus from younger days till the Trojan War in Troy.

Narrated in first person view by Patroclus,the book starts with Patroclus,aged 10 leaving his country , exiled to Pythia as a punishment for accidentally killing a boy.Patroclus was less loved by his parents for being simple, a boy with no special talent and he arrives to Pythia with his title as a prince stripped and to continue  the rest of his life a foster son/ward to  King Peleus.Here he meets the half God half mortal Achilles the son of Peleus and the Goddes Thetis and was smitten with his charisma,beauty and energy.What starts with jealousy develops into a honest friendship after  Patroclus learns more about Achilles and his mischievous side and starts to spend more time together sharing secrets which one of it was a prophecy regarding Achilles that he would be greater than Heracles and Perseus and will be remembered by the world for his achievements in war.As years progresses,the friendship blooms into attraction and deep love.Thetis who is well known for her hatred towards the mortals,despises their relationship as she wants her son to become immortal and believes Patroclus taints his reputation.The rest of the novel deals on  the relationship between the Achilles and Patroclus and their journey to fulfil Achilles prophecy.

Madeline Miller took 10 years to research and to write the novel and her effort was pretty clear as the novel is faithful  to the Iliad and has some direct quotations from it.The writing is not  that complicated ,perfect for a easy read.However the usage of some modern swear words felt inappropriate.

The characters are well written especially the three main characters Achilles,Patroclus and the cold Thetis.Patroclus is not your typical protagonist and the voice that Miller had created is relatable and you do care about him and worry for him.The description of Thetis personality is so clear that you feel the coldness seeping out the pages.I do appreciate Miller's effort on portraying minor characters like Odysseus accurately .

The stages of relationship between Achilles and Patroclus are beautifully constructed and depicted.The mutual love,respect and loyalty is well showcased in the novel and it makes you to care for the characters despite knowing their fates.Through this relationship,Miller shows a side of Achilles that had that Homer touched a bit.The human side of this hero.While Achilles is well known for his victories,this novel shows a vulnerable side filled with human emotions loving,kindness,arrogance,jealousy and the most famous one his anger.
The novel also raises some messages that is relevant even to this day.One of it was how much one would do for their reputation or image.Only when he looses something that is so dear and important to him did Achilles realise reputation or image is nothing when there is no one to love.The last three chapters were very moving and I really loved the bittersweet ending.


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