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Review number 5: The Song of Achilles

Hey guys! Today is Saint Valentines Day and I'll celebrate talking about a book that made my expectations on love way too high, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I'd heard a lot about this book before buying it and when I started reading it I have to admit my bar for it was set very very high. But it proved immediately deserving of all the praise it had gotten. It's based on Homer's Iliad and talks about the war of Troy, but specifically from the point of view of Patroclus, the faithful companion of the great hero Achilles, and focusing on the relationship the two develop from childhood.

I have to start by saying I absolutely loved the general idea of the story. The greek history and culture is one of the richest in the world and one almost everyone knows at least a little bit about. Bringing back that setting from the point of view of one of the lesser known characters and his own take on the deeply fascinating world of the greek heros was an original way of making a very old tale new again. It was also a risk: when writing an adaptation of such a famous work, one of which most people will already know the ending of, it's very easy to make it boring, make the reader lose interest or simply turn it into a bad, pale copy of the original. Miller avoided all this also thanks to her beautiful writing style and the evident research behind her work.

Talking about the former, I think the author's writing style was a big part of her book's success. Her narration, told by Patroclus' first person voice, is soft and poetic and fits perfectly in the world she describes, taking the reader to it from the first page and making them root for the characters despite knowing from the start how the story ends. As for the depiction of the greek world itself, this is one of the aspects where my expectations were at their highest. I've studied the ancient greek culture for almost five years and translated various bits from the original Iliad so it's a subject very close to my heart. But Miller's ancient Greece was almost perfect. Language details, customs, traditions- the research that went into understanding a world that is so different from ours in the good and in the bad is evident and very well made.

Finally I want to mention the characters: from the famous kings we all know, from Odysseus to Agamemnon, to the magical gods such as Achilles' mother, the water nymph Thetis, they all come to life in front of our eyes directly from Miller's pen. Not just vague names from myths and stories anymore but humans, in their heroic virtues and terrible flaws. And then there's the unbreakable bond between Achilles and Patroclus than turns this book into nothing short of a romance. It's the beauty of the love everyone wishes they could find, a love that is worth every minute of pain it brings along with the utter and complete joy of being together. Achilles and Patroclus aren't perfect but they make each other better and both decide the other is worth fighting for against everyone and everything. So often I read books where it just seems so hard for the characters to get with their love interest. This book was a break from all that drama, a reminder that to make things work you sometimes just need to want it enough.

The Song of Achilles is a beautifully written, page turner that will emotionally punch you in the gut and an interesting view on one of the greatest cultures that ever lived. Happy Saint Valentines Day everyone, remember to tell the people you love how much they mean to you!


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