From beginning to end, The Song of Achilles is gripping and emotive in a way I have never yet experienced from another novel. From Patroclus' flawless and poetic narrative, we see the world - and most importantly, Achilles - in a different way to one presented by other depictions of Troy and the events surrounding it. It is indeed a love story, so I am bemused by the reviews that find it hyper-romanticised; Miller has said that she wanted to write an evocative and intimate tale of the two lovers, not just re-tell the Illiad in modern prose.
This novel is a success on many levels, from its narrative voice and wonderful style of prose to its characterisation of all the characters, minor or major. I found this book to have rich and complex characters despite it being in first person, a feat not to be sneered at. It is fascinating and heartbreaking to see the rise and fall of Achilles through the eyes of his lover, and one that has no doubt brought many a reader to tears, myself included.
It is not necessary to have read the Illiad before reading this book, though vague knowledge of the story of Achilles and Patroclus helps the fantastic lines of foreshadowing hit far more emotional blows. Indeed, '"What has Hector ever done to me?"' must be up there with the most heartwrenching extracts from the novel, such as 'I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.'
Beautiful, tragic, and sublime, this novel is the first I would recommend to anyone looking for something to read. Madeline Miller, in her debut novel, has managed to capture the gilded world of gods and mortals whilst telling one of the most passionate and loved stories from Greek mythology. This book is more than 'worth' the read: it is a vital must.