The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, is my 12th. book for Marg's Historical Fiction challenge 2021.
My recent read of And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander made me curious about the story of Achilles and this book by Madeline Miller filled a few gaps in my rather scant knowledge. The tale is told from the point of view of Patroclus, a young exiled prince taken in by Achilles' father, Peleus. Peleus had a child with a sea goddess, Thetis, the result being Achilles and he is thus a golden child, beautiful and excelling in everything, but especially anything to do with weapons and fighting. Patroclus, alone and miserable, eventually comes to the attention of Achilles and the two become inseparable. A firm friendship deepens into love as they get older, one that no one can understand as Patroclus is very ordinary indeed and the polar opposite of the love of his life. Thetis especially seems to loathe her son's lover. The elephant in the room is Achilles' fighting ability and the certain knowledge that one day he will be called upon to test that in battle. And so it comes to pass when Helen, married to King Menelaus of Sparta, is either abducted, or runs away with, Paris, the son of Priam, the king of Troy, and thus begins the Trojan war and the ten year seige.
I don't really understand why I failed to be fully engaged by this book. It's hugely popular and a lot of people absolutely love it. Don't get me wrong, I liked it well enough. At no stage did I want to give up and I really appreciated learning a lot more about this particular branch of Greek mythology. It just lacked something for me, I didn't really love anyone in it or feel completely connected to the story. Also, a small query. I always thought that in Ancient Greece any kind of sexuality was quite acceptable, so why was it all so shameful between Achilles and Patroclus? Why so much secrecy? I didn't get that at all. I did love the boys' 3 or 4 year sojourn on a mountain with a centaur. Who wouldn't want to do that! Anyway, interesting and informative and by no means terrible (I gave it a 3 star rating on Goodreads). My quest to find out more about Greek mythology will continue and I have a list of books and authors I will search out in 2022.
A few of them:
Fire From Heaven - Mary Renault
The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker
Circe - Madeline Miller
Ariadne and Elektra - Jennifer Saint
The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
A Thousand Ships - Natilie Haynes
Athena's Child - Lynn Hannah
Daughters of Sparta - Claire Heywood
Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold - Stephen Fry
I'm sure there are loads more so if anyone has any recommendations they would be welcome.