Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller


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Published: 2011

I must say that his novel got a lot of a positive reviews on both Goodreads and general rankings I saw on multiple book reviewers here on wordpress. I was really intrigued, as the plot sounded really interesting. Taking on the Trojan war through a completely new perspective? Yes!

But I must say I was very uninspired. For a long time I tried to determine why I felt like this because in theory I should really like it. The history seemed very well re-searched (found out that Miller actually did her BA and MA in Latin and Ancient Greek), and it was a well planned out storyline during a fascinating time(took her 8 years to write this novel!).

So why on earth did I not love this book as well?

Then I realized that I felt nothing towards the narrator, Patroclus. He was extremely weak, his entire life was just consumed with loving, looking at and following Achilles around like a lost puppy. It was literally unbearable. I just found him really unlikeable. It did ger a little better in the second half where he actually spent a few hours not stalking Achilles, found a hobby (healing wounded soldiers) and actually found other friends (don’t get too excited it was really just one friend; Briseis). Understandably, the author wanted to re-write the famous tale of Troy through a new perspective, not one of other powerful figures but someone a bit more “average”. Sadly, the narrator was below average and didn’t possess any likeable feature in my opinion.

The writing style also suffered. The one word that I would probably used to describe it is uninspiring. Miller spent too much time repeating herself and going on and on about how obsessed Patroclus was with Achilles. Scenes of him marveling at Achilles probably make up about ¾ of the book, easily. I don’t really want to read the same thing over and over again, especially when nothing new is added to the repetitions.

Maybe I am missing something…

Verdict: Still confused why this book had so much hype, failed to be inspiring, I would read if you like ancient history and obsessive lovers.

Have you read this book? I would love to hear your interpretations, and maybe shed some light so I could grow to like this book!

11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

  1. I haven’t read this, but I did just finish Ransom by David Malouf, and if you ever feel inspired to tackle another take on The Iliad/Trojan War, I’d highly recommend it. My impression (not having read The Song of Achilles), is that Ransom is probably a little more cerebral, but the point of view rotates between Achilles, Priam, and Priam’s cart driver (with a few passages from other characters’ perspectives), so you do get that “everyman” perspective (in fact, the disconnect between the heroic/ceremonial life and everyday life is a huge topic of discussion).

  2. I had heard a lot of great things about this as well, but never got around to reading it. Yours is the first negative review I’ve seen so far, actually, but I love hearing opinions that differ from the rest. Think I’ll be moving this off my list!

  3. Well you already know my feelings on this book, including why I thought the narration worked with an “uninspiring” main character. But I do understand where you’re coming from and agree. I just feel like it worked for me, that’s all. 🙂

  4. I purchased this book a few months ago, because of all the good reviews it was getting, but I haven’t read it yet. I’m curious though and thank you for sharing your reading experience. I will definitely make sure my expectation isn’t too high going into the book (It was until now)

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