The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I loved this book and want to recommend it to every single person I know. It’s that sort of incredible and universal.

Achilles and Patroclus are a classic (classical) love story, and for a long time it has been pushed to the edges of the story. It’s important not to project modern ideas about homesexuality and gay identity into an ancient setting, but this is a part of an often hidden history of same sex desire. When I studied the Trojan war in school the story of Achilles and Patroclus was always couched in the language of friendship and comradeship. There wasn’t romance or passion. The Song of Achilles fixes that.

But really, who cares about the political ramifications. Just read it because it’s great. It is beautifully romantic, and terribly sad.

I started reading it and basically didn’t stop until it was over. When I was done I wanted to start over and read it again right away. I told everyone I talked to that they should read it.

It’s told from Patroclus’s point of view, which works very well. He’s on the edge of all of Achilles stories, the companion of a great hero. He has enough remove and perspective, and very little power in how things unfold, except for his influence over Achilles, which is considerable. Part of the joy is watching them grow up, maturing from children to young men with heavy burdens, the weight of destiny. I’m familiar with the legend, I know how their story ends, but I still wasn’t prepared for how much it hurt. That’s a mark of good storytelling — that inevitable tragedy still feels like a punch to the gut. A stunning book. Go read it.

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