The Song of Achilles by Miller Madeline
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“Mary Renault lives again!” declares Emma Donoghue, author of Room , referring to The Song of Achilles , Madeline Miller’s thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War. A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad . An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller’s monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights — and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.
Review of The Song of Achilles by Miller Madeline
”We were like gods, at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”
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Gosh I loved this book!!!
The moment I read the first page I was already certain of two things:
1.) This would become one of my all-time favourites and I’d gush about it like crazy.
2.) It wouldn’t only leave me devastated and heartbroken but also sobbing like a little child.
Well, both of those things came true, even way earlier than I had initially anticipated. I was about 37% percent in (yes I looked it up! ;-P) when I first started to cry and it didn’t get any better after that. This book was just so beautiful! So, so damn beautiful! Madeline Miller definitely has a way with words and I loved how this story was written: Poetical with a lot of mythological facts and with so many details that it succeeded to make this a more than just intriguing journey.
What I loved the most was how she managed to convey Achilles’ and Patroclus relationship though. Even though she never went into detail, never actually let them say that they loved each other; it was still palpable in every single moment they shared together. Those moments were so precious I couldn’t get enough of them and all I wanted was for them to be happy.
Unfortunately I’m a little geek and know a lot about Greek mythology so yeah, I already knew how it would end before it even ended. Still, the sense of foreboding in this book!!! Oh gosh, it killed me!! All those little hints, those infinitesimal innuendos, those tiny insinuations, they piled up and up and up until all I was able to feel was dread!!! By the end of the book I was reduced to a sobbing and crying nervous wreck and the final sentence was like a dagger in my heart.
In other words:
This was exceptionally painful and utterly devastating,
it was also so damn good and worth every second of pain!
This is my spoiler section in which I’m going to speak about the individual characters and what I thought of them. So you better beware and don’t read it if you still want to read the book. Heed my warning or get lost in the underworld. It’s your choice, choose wisely! ;-P
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’Ah.’ A sly smile spread across his face; he had always loved defiance. ‘Well, why should I kill him? He’s done nothing to me.’
This sentence killed me when I first read it! Achilles, my beautiful, innocent and naïve boy!!! Jeez! I loved him so much! He was every bit the hero people believed him to be and most of the time he actually did the right thing. Well, most of the time. At the end of the book there happened a lot of things I didn’t agree with and the longer his conflict with Agamemnon lasted the more I dreaded the end! It made me so sad to see how much Achilles changed over the years and when the thing with Briseis happened my reaction was the same as Patroclus’! I mean I knew what Achilles did (I’m a geek remember?) but reading it the way Madeline Miller wrote it? Boy it destroyed me! There was this wonderful, perfect, righteous, honourable, intelligent, innocent and honest golden boy and then the war over Troy tainted him, transformed him and made him an entirely different person. The true tragedy about this all is that he never even wanted to take part in the war, he was more or less forced into it and I think looking at it in retrospective a life as a normal person would have been preferable to the one of a hero. I guess in the end Achilles saw it the same way and would have done everything in order to change his path. Even if it would have meant that he would have been forgotten and would have never become a legend… it would have been worth it. Patroclus would have been worth it… *cries*
”I stopped watching for ridicule, the scorpion’s tail hidden in his words. He said what he meant; he was puzzled if you did not. Some people might have mistaken this for simplicity. But is it not a sort of genius to cut always to the heart?”
”Your honour could be darkened by it.”
“Then it is darkened.” His jaw shot forward, stubborn. “They are fools if they let my glory rise or fall on this.”
“But Odysseus –“
His eyes, green as spring leaves, met mine. “Patroclus. I have given enough to them. I will not give them this.”
”They grinned, loving every inch of their miraculous prince: his gleaming hair, his deadly hands, his nimble feet. They leaned towards him, like flowers to the sun, drinking in his lustre. It was as Odysseus had said: he had light enough to make heroes of them all.”
”It is not true. You left yourself today. And now you are returned.”
His shoulders rise and fall on a long breath. “Do not say that,” he says, “until you have heard the rest of what I have done.”
”I went to Peleus. I knelt before him on a wool rug, woven bright with purple. He started to speak, but I was too quick for him. One of my hands went to clasp his knees, the other reached upward, to seize his chin with my hand. The pose of supplication. It was a gesture I had seen many times, but had never made myself. I was under his protection now; he was bound to treat me fairly, by the law of the gods.
‘Tell me where he is,’ I said.”
I adored Patroclus! He was the best! He was wonderful and beautiful in his own way and I loved how faithful he was. That boy was one of the kindest and sweetest people I ever read about (tough competition for Lazlo Strange *lol*) and I was so happy Achilles saw this too. He realized that Patroclus is special and he encouraged him to speak his mind. It felt like Patroclus was Achilles’ conscience, intervening whenever his divine heritage showed. Without Patroclus Achilles path would have been dark and bloody but with him at his side he became the glorious figure we all know about. Patroclus was so much more than just a companion. He was a friend, a lover, a teacher, a conscience, a reminder and Achilles past, present and future! This boy was literally the embodiment of Achilles life and actions and the people around them were fools for not seeing their strong connection. Patroclus was everything that was good about Achilles, he brought out the best in him. Taught him compassion and love, he was an anchor and someone he could come home to! Speak to! Confide in! Once Patroclus was gone the relentless godly part of Achilles showed though and the rest of it is (bloody) history. T_T
’Patroclus.’ It was the name my father had given me, hopefully but injudiciously, at my birth, and it tasted of bitterness on my tongue. ‘Honour of the father,’ it meant.
”Perhaps she thought I was mocking her, flourishing my triumph. Perhaps she thought I hated her. She did not know that I almost asked him, a hundred times, to be a little kinder to her. You do not have to humiliate her so thoroughly, I thought. But it was not kindness he lacked, it was interest. His gaze passed over her as if she were not here.”
’Willl you come with me?’ he asked.
The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death.
Yes, I whispered. Yes.
”I do not know this man, I think. He is no one I have ever seen before. My rage towards him is hot as blood. I will never forgive him. I imagine tearing down our tent, smashing the lyre, stabbing myself in the stomach and bleeding to death. I want to see his face broken with grief and regret. I want to shatter the cold mask of stone that has slipped down over the boy I knew. He has given her to Agamemnon knowing what will happen.”
”May I give you some advice? If you are truly his friend you will help him leave his soft heart behind. He’s going to Troy to kill men, not rescue them.” His dark eyes held me like swift-running current. “He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”
Damn, how much I hated and liked that sneaky and cunning bastard!! I’m still very torn when it comes to him. On the one hand he gave sound advice and knew exactly what he did and on the other hand he forced Achilles on his destined path. If it wouldn’t have been for Odysseus he would have never gone to Troy and even though I agree with his sentiment that Achilles could save them all, I still disagree with the way he played him. Of all the countless men that manipulated young Achilles, Odysseus probably was the worst, hiding behind the mask of a friend but ultimately pursuing his own goals. Clever! Very clever indeed!
”Then you are a traitor to this army, and will be punished like one. Your war prizes are hostage, placed in my care until you offer your obedience and submission. Let us start with that girl. Briseis, is her name? She will do as a penance for the girl you have forced me to return.”
I HATE AGAMEMNON!!! Fiercely!!! Such an unfair and dishonourable numpty!!! I hate him and all his actions! I mean what kind of father would trade his daughter away and then kill her?! His own flesh and blood! Gosh, I CAN’T EVEN WITH HIM!! I’m still so angry! Those moments at the end and the tense situation between Achilles and him had me at the edge of my seat and all I wanted to do was to scream at the injustice that took place in front of me!!! Such a stubborn and self-righteous fool!! He should have listened to Achilles but he was too proud to. *shakes head in disbelief* I. HATE. HIM!!! Enough said!
Another person that landed on my shit list! *lol* I really, really disliked her too! I mean I understand that she was Achilles mother and only wanted the best for her son, but it was more than just obvious that the best was Patroclus and I hated her for always trying to drive a wedge between them! Without Thetis half of their troubles wouldn’t have even existed and even though she kind of redeemed herself in the end I still don’t like her! Sorry Thet, but you’ll never get a thumbs-up from me! #SorryNotSorrry
Achilles & Patroclus:
”This morning he had leaped on to my bed and pressed his nose against mine. ‘Good morning,’ he’d said. I remembered the heat of him against my skin.”
Ohh how sweet those two were! I loved their relationship! They were so gentle and adorable and no matter what happened and no matter how many obstacles were in their way they always managed to find back to each other! They had confidence in each other and they supported each other regardless of the consequences. Achilles and Patroclus had such an honest and beautiful relationship, I CAN’T EVEN!!!! THIS was the real deal!!! A connection so deep that no one could destroy it, a love so strong that it cast aside all obstacles, their trust so deep that they could talk about everything!!! Boy, I could gush about this relationship at eye level for eternity and still would never get tired of it! *lol* I just adore them so much! It was so sweet they couldn’t even be angry with each other and even though Patroclus wasn’t always happy with Achilles decisions, he still did his best to support him as best as he could, even if that meant that he had to go against his will. I think in the end their unconditional love for each other was the only thing that was able to break them and it eventually did. Jeez! How it did! *cries again* Achilles had no reason to kill Hector, no reason to fulfil the prophecy. Well, at least not until Hector took the only thing that mattered to him, the only thing he didn’t want to live without. Patroclus! *sobs* Hell! The way Achilles grieved!!! It broke my freaking heart!!! It was like a punch in the gut! I know first-hand how much this hurts, how painful it is to lose a person you love so much, and boy did it trigger my emotions. T_T I felt Achilles grief with him and it was so intense it left me crying and sobbing. They were so beautiful together… so, so, so damn beautiful. I can’t anymore… *weeps*
”I saw then how I had changed. I did not mind any more, that I lost when we raced and I lost when we swam out to the rocks and I lost when we tossed spears or skipped stones. For who can be ashamed to lose to such beauty? It was enough to watch him win, to see the soles of his feet flashing as they kicked up sand, or the rise and fall of his shoulders as he pulled through the salt. It was enough.”
”My pulse jumps, for no reason I can name. He has looked at me a thousand times, but there is something different in this gaze, an intensity I do not know. My mouth is dry, and I can hear the sound of my throat as I swallow.
He watches me. It seems that he is waiting.”
”His eyes were unwavering, green flecked with gold. A certainty rose in me, lodged in my throat. I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me.”
”Had she really thought I would not know him? I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell, I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
”You can’t.” He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
“I know. They never let you be famous and happy.” He lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” I loved it when he was like this.
“I’m going to be the first.” He took my palm and held it to him. “Swear it.”
“Because you’re the reason. Swear it.”
“I swear it,” I said, lost in the high colour of his cheeks, the flame in his eyes.
“I swear it,” he echoed.
”There was more to say, but for once we did not say it. There would be other times for speaking, tonight and tomorrow and all the days after that. He let go of my hand.”
All told this was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. It caused me to cry, it made me angry, it made me smile and it touched me deeply. I’m a total mess after reading this and my emotions are still all over the place, to say I regret reading it would be one hell of a lie though.
I rarely write this into my reviews but: If you haven’t read this, do it now!!! You won’t regret it! =)
Last but not least I want to thank my Sweet Sugar Bun who dared to buddy read this book with me! Thank you for all the comments, messages and updates that made it bearable to read this book. I swear if you wouldn’t have discussed this with me I would have cried even more often than I already did. *lol* So yeah, thanks for that wonderful buddy read and for keeping my sanity intact. I really appreciate it! XD We definitely should go for another buddy read some time soon! I heard “Circe” is a nice book too! *lol* ;-P
In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood, like a hundred golden urns pouring out the sun.”
Review of The Song of Achilles by Miller Madeline
“I loved it.” (J.K. Rowling)
“Fast, true and incredibly rewarding…A remarkable achievement.” (USA Today)
“Wildly romantic [and] surprisingly suspenseful….[B]ringing those dark figures back to life, making them men again, and while she’s at it, us[ing] her passionate companion piece to The Iliad as a subtle swipe at today’s ongoing debate over gay marriage. Talk about updating the classics.” (Time magazine)
“One of the best novelistic adaptations of Homer in recent memory, and it offers strikingly well-rounded and compassionate portrait of Achilles….[Miller] injects a newfound sense of suspense into a story with an ending that has already been determined.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Powerful, inventive, passionate, and beautifully written. ” (Boston Globe)
“Beautifully done. . ..In prose as clean and spare as the driving poetry of Homer, Miller captures the intensity and devotion of adolescent friendship and lets us believe in these long-dead boys…deepening and enriching a tale that has been told for 3,000 years.” (Washington Post)
“You don’t need to be familiar with Homer’s The Iliad (or Brad Pitt’s Troy, for that matter) to find Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles spellbinding….her explorations of ego, grief, and love’s many permutations are both familiar and new….[A] timeless love story.” (O magazine)
“The Song of Achilles…should be read and enjoyed for itself, but if Madeline Miller’s novel sends the reader back to Homer and his successors, she is to be thanked for that as well.” (Washington Independent Review of Books)
From the Back Cover
Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.
They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
About the Author
Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University, and has been teaching both languages for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales for a modern audience. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.