The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

April 21, 2019

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 of the sun.

(The last sentence of the book, almost the only good one.)


I was expecting to re-learn my Greek classics, told with a modern voice in modern language. I expected tales of heroism, of the great Greek heroes like Odysseus, of the Trojan war.

What I got was a pale romance, lots of pathos and characters I couldn’t care for at all. Achilles almost always submits to his mother’s wishes, Patroclus is annoying and whiny and both fall in love with each other for no discernible reason whatsoever – unless you count Achilles’s feet…

His dusty feet scuffed against the flagstones as he ate. They were not cracked and callused as mine were, but pink and sweetly brown beneath the dirt.

Or Achilles’s feet… Again…

Up close, his feet looked almost unearthly: the perfectly formed pads of the toes, the tendons that flickered like lyre strings. The heels were callused white over pink from going everywhere barefoot. His father made him rub them with oils that smelled of sandalwood and pomegranate.

Yes, feet and lots of them…


Everything else takes a backseat compared to the romance parts which simply bored me almost enough to put this thing away for good.

Because, honestly, I don’t like nonsense like this:

As for the goddess’s answer, I did not care. I would have no need of her. I did not plan to live after he was gone.

And whenever something threatens to happen in this book, e. g. for pretty much the first time after 50% (!) of the entire book…

The drums began to beat, and the oars lifted and fell, taking us to Troy.

… the chapter ends and the next one starts…

BUT FIRST, TO AULIS.

… with more stalling. The story never stands a chance against Miller’s prose, it drowns before ever flourishing. It almost feels like Miller is doing it on purpose and mocking us:

It was easy, in those moments, to forget that the war had not yet really begun.

Because we can’t ever forget that STILL NOTHING HAPPENED. Even the rare fighting scenes are incredibly boring and full of… feet!

I could not even see the ugliness of the deaths anymore, the brains, the shattered bones that later I would wash from my skin and hair. All I saw was his beauty, his singing limbs, the quick flickering of his feet.

And what do we get at the end about the legendary Trojan War?

THE PROPHECY TOLD TRULY. Now that Pyrrhus has come, Troy falls. He does not do it alone, of course. There is the horse, and Odysseus’ plan, and a whole army besides.

Wow. Just wow. How do you get to write so incredibly boring and be celebrated for it?!

I’m certainly not going to waste more time on Miller’s books.



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