What I read in September: Song of Achilles

I did not read a lot in September, I picked up so many different books trying to get into one, but I just did not want to read and couldn’t get into any of them.

The only book I read was The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. This is a book that is all over #BookTok and Book Tube (Book Tik Tok and book YouTube) and it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, but it was so good!

The Song of Achilles tells the story of Patroclus, a Greek prince whose father is a bit of a brute and is very disappointed that his son isn’t as hard as he is. When he’s 11, he and his father go to compete for Helen’s (as in of Troy, but not not yet) hand in marriage. All the other potential suitors are grown men, he is the only boy. Each son and father puts forward what they will give Helen’s father and Helen in exchange for Helen’s hand, and one of the suitor eventually suggests that Helen is allowed to choose her husband and that everyone there will sign a contract saying that they will respect Helen’s choice and defend her marriage no matter what (this seems like just a little short story to illustrate who is father is, but it becomes much more important later on). Patroclus is not chosen, and he and his father return home. Patroclus continues to grow up, and when he is roughly 13 he gets into an argument with another boy over a toy. All the other boys think that he is soft, and Patroclus finally loses it and pushes the boy, causing him to hit his head in just the right spot on a rock. Killing isn’t seen as the same crime in Ancient Greece, if he had killed a daughter his punishment might not have been as severe, but he killed a son, so his father has to make a choice. Capital punishment or exile. And so Patroclus is exiled and sent to Peleus, who is kind of a collector of exiled boys. Peleus is also Achilles’ father, and so Patroclus and Achilles meet. Initially, Patroclus doesn’t like Achilles, he is too golden, too perfect, too nice, but eventually they become friends and eventually, slowly, lovers. Thetis, Achilles’ mother is very upset by their relationship and tries many times to separate them over their lives and their deaths. However, the main crisis of the story is when Paris, from Troy, abducts Helen and all the now grown Greek princes are bound by contract to fight to defend her marriage, with disastrous consequences to Patroclus, Achilles, and almost all of Ancient Greece.

I did not expect to like a fiction book about Achilles so much, I also thought that it was mostly going to be about Achilles, however, Patroclus is the narrator and the main character of this story. I also found it absolutely fascinating that Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship was so accepted and yet so “wrong” at the same time. Learning about Achilles through Patroclus was super interesting and the transition from boy who has never had a friend to best friend to lover to losing your only friend and lover was devastating.

I would highly recommend this book, it is super good, and young adult-esque, without really being a YA book.

I really want to read more this month, I’m not certain how to achieve that goal yet, but only reading one book in the whole month is a bit sad to me.


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