Book recs: ‘The Song of Achilles’ gives different perspective to Greek mythology classic

Gianna Cocovinis, Staff Writer

To all of you Greek romance lovers out there, here’s one more to add to the ever-growing list of heartbreaking, beautiful love stories. Despite how dirty the film “Troy” did the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in their version of the story in 2004, author Madeline Miller stays true to the legend of these two famous paramours and gives a romance for the ages. 

“The Song of Achilles” offers a different perspective to one of the most famous love stories to emerge from the Trojan War. Compared to the grandeur and glory that surrounds Achilles, people often overlook or underestimate Patroclus but he proves to be a perceptive, sympathetic and kind soul that looks for the good in everyone. His quiet presence allows people to let their guards down in front of him and it is this habit that allows him to get close to Achilles at such an early point in their lives. It’s from his perspective that we follow as the events of their story unfold and we get a different side of Achilles’ rise to power and renown, as well as his subsequent fall at the height of the battle in the name of glory and fame. 

I always envisioned Achilles’s character as this big, brutish warrior that storms into battle, carving a path of destruction everywhere he goes. While he isn’t completely far from the mark of that trope, it was interesting to see how dedicated he was to become the best warrior even as a young boy. Many people assume he is completely arrogant. While he can be just a little What he really commands is this sort of calm, blunt determination to fulfill his destiny of mastering being a warrior and the trusted leader of his men as he shepherds them into battle. To him, his destiny is a given and his headstrong tenacity to train, fight and get strong is only in preparation for the role he is meant to play in this great clashing of world powers. 

If Achilles is great, it is only because he has Patroclus to support him. Where Achilles acts on instinct and emotions, Patroclus is reserved and insightful. Watching the story unfold through Patroclus’s perspective offers the chance to humanize these legendary figures in ways others haven’t gotten to before. Even when he’s a healer during the siege itself, he doesn’t remark on Ajax’s fighting skills or Odysseus’s quick wit; he notes the simple things that make them relatable – that make them human. Patroclus is a softy at heart, and the way he puts his utmost faith in people is exactly what draws him and Achilles together. They truly do complement each other, playing to each other’s strengths and weaknesses and acting as a real team throughout the whole narrative. 

If you had any hesitation before, this is your sign to read “The Song of Achilles”. Yes, it will take you on an emotional roller-coaster that really has one destination and we all know the end, but the heartbreak is well, well worth it.