Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Song of Achilles

by Madeline Miller

This is not the modern-day Iliad as promised by reviewers, but rather the story of a relationship between a god and a man. Unfortunately, reading this book may ruin your remembrances of Homer's legendary epic since Ms. Miller gives second place to the Trojan War, pursuing instead a supposed homosexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. When the story first showed signs of moving this direction I was taken aback. I hadn't read the Iliad since high school, but remembered it being one of my favorite assigned reading materials. I certainly didn't recall any romantic relationship between the hero and his companion, but wondered if in my naivety I had misunderstood that as a teen. But no, after a quick Spark notes check, I was reassured that this author wanted to make a statement. I was very disappointed in this rendition of the friendship between Patroclus and Achilles because I had always compared it to the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible. I was also disappointed that so much of the story was spent developing this affair and so little spent on all that matters regarding Troy, Greece and the wrath of Achilles, which was the main focus for Homer.

I will give credit to Ms. Miller in her writing style, which is captivating and engaging, but the gushing love affair was not only too much for my tastes, but skewed my view of an otherwise admirable companionship between two men.

Furthermore, I can't imagine The Song of Achilles appealing to anyone I know following this blog. For a second time this month I say, "Stick with the classic.

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