Greek mythology is something that has always interested me. I remember reading the stories about the divinity of the Greek gods and the immense power Greek heroes had bestowed upon them as they completed epic quests. Therefore it was no surprise that ‘The Song of Achilles’ was added to my never ending list of books to read at some point. I had briefly read about the legend pertaining to Achilles and could remember only small muddled fragments. However, having never read ‘The Iliad’ I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect.
After finishing ‘Song of Achilles’, my first thought had been how romantic the Greek myths had been portrayed. I felt sheltered having just dabbled in this genre, leaving my mind open to absorb this interpretation of Achilles.
“…he is half my soul … as the poets say“
The gods were depicted to be capricious, prideful and vengeful, thus placing them far away from humans. Yet at the same time, ironically this reflected humanity, uncomfortably so. It contrasts the way we may traditionally think Gods to be – benevolent and wise. Glimpses of this could be seen in Achilles at times, especially in his refusal to rejoin the battle of Troy despite Patroclus’ many emotional requests. More often than not, it was difficult to connect with Achilles. His fierce love and loyalty for Patroclus was truly incredible and in these moments, Achilles was truly human. The depiction of the gods as a whole was interesting given how they look down (metaphorically and literally) on humans but insist on interfering in their affairs.
“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 relationship portrayed between Achilles and Patroclus was simply amazing. It built up naturally and did not appear to be rushed at all. It was sincere and wonderful. The intimate scenes were heartfelt and beautifully captured. In particular the significant impact Achilles and Patroclus had on one another.
The ending left me shattered (not to sound too dramatic or anything). Even though I had an inkling of what was going to happen, due to the emotional connection with the characters, especially Patroclus, it was hard not to feel somewhat heartbroken with Achilles. The scenes in the final chapters capturing Achilles’ heartbreak were skilfully written, evoking a whole host of different emotions.
The narration did an excellent job of bringing ancient Greece to life with vivid descriptions of each place visited. Instead of a brief description of each character’s story in narrative, the writing allowed for them to be experienced from their perspective. It can be argued that each character was complex in their own right and their intentions weren’t always as clear cut as they may have seemed at first.
Thetis was a curious character; there was more to her that met the eye on first glance. Her maternal unconditional love for her son was clear to see in the various sacrifices she made in order to protect him. It was frustrating to witness her outward hatred towards Patroclus. It was still even more frustrating that it was understandable to a degree. The connection formed between them at the end was full of pure raw emotion.
In a nutshell this was a beautiful story, focussing on the close bond between Achilles and Patroclus that started as friendship and ended in intimate love against the backdrop of the Trojan War. A whole variety of emotions have been weaved into the narration only to ultimately culminate in a heartbreaking conclusion.
P.S. I was told to stand outside for my poor performance. If anyone asks, I was outstanding 🙂