“Song of Achilles”

Madeline Miller

It may be possible to read this book without knowing how the story has to end. I suspect it’s not possible for anyone raised in the global West, and even outside of that, by the time you know enough English to read this book, you’ve probably picked up enough cultural background knowledge to have a good idea. The phrase “Achilles heel” isn’t exactly uncommon.

With that foreknowledge, the entire novel feels like a growing weight, the crushing inevitability of that end coming towards you. It’s the sound of rushing water as your paddle-less boat approaches the falls; the growing vibration of the rails you’re tied to as the train approaches.

The rending heartbreak of one of the most beautiful love stories I can remember ever reading. So much of this stories is about Achilles and Patroclus growing up together and falling in love. Their first kiss is another inevitability by the time it arrives, something you’ve been waiting for for what feels like months—that just-out-of-reach realization, the word hovering on the tip of your tongue, and then the satisfaction of grasping it.

Truth be told, I haven’t finished the book yet. I’m nearly to the end, and as I’ve done many times while reading, I have to take a break. Set it down, and give myself time to process the feeling of grief coming in all out of order.

This may be one of the greatest books I have ever read. For someone who grew up reading Greek mythology, it was entirely predictable, and yet so very new. A breath of fresh air, and the pounding weight of a waterfall, crushing you down into the deep, cold water. I cannot recommend it highly enough; please, read it.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.