Publisher: Ecco (March 6, 2012)
Length: 389 pg
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
This is one of those books where you know how it’s going to end before you even start it which makes finishing it REALLY hard! I read this book 70% through and then chickened out because I wasn’t sure I was ready for the sad ending.
After being chastised by my friends for not finishing such a fantastic book, I discovered that putting it off didn’t actually help at all! I was still in tears by the end. But you know a book is great if you are crying or yelling by the end. I don’t regret it at all.
“Had she really thought that I would not know him? 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.” (134)
So this is the myth of Achilles as told by his lover Patroclus. It is well worth the 5 “mushroom” rating I gave it. The writing is so carefully written, an obvious labor of love (the book took 10 years to write!). Miller fills in all the gaps in the Iliad that beg for details like how Patroclus copes being banished to Phthia, how he finds Achilles on the island of Scyros, why Achilles would even allow Patroclus to don his armor. This book details their love story from beginning to the very end.
It is such a relief after hearing the tale so many times describing Patroclus as his very close best friend. Scholars love to say that we can’t assign modern values upon stories of the long past but here, listen to Plato himself argue in his Ship Manifesto AKA Plato’s Symposium:
[…]avenged him, and sought death not merely in his behalf but in haste to be joined with him whom death had taken. For this the gods so highly admired him that they gave him distinguished honor, since he set so great a value on his lover. And Aeschylus talks nonsense when he says that it was Achilles who was in love with Patroclus; for he excelled in beauty not Patroclus alone but assuredly all the other heroes, being still beardless and, moreover, much the younger, by Homer’s account. (Plato, Symposium 180a)
Whether or not their relationship was pederastic or not is a whole different story I don’t want to go into, but the reaction from Achilles after Patroclus’s death was undoubtedly the frenetic grief of someone who has lost the love of their life.
“I said his name, I think. It blew through me; I was hollow as a reed hung up for the wind to sound. There was no time that passed but our breaths.”
I have very little to critique in this book, honestly the writing is absolutely gorgeous, the characters well developed and their voices all clearly their own.
The only things I didn’t 100% jive with were:
– Patroclus’s death scene felt very fast and a bit hastily done (though I would also want to get through that ASAP)
– Thetis’s rather out of no-where sympathy for Patroclus (If she hadn’t though I might have thrown the book across the room, but after showing nothing but antagonism for him the entire book, it was a shock that she gave him any kindness.)
– No epilogue. Come on. I want to see them actually reunite!!!
My favorite thing besides all of the sweet scenes between the main two, was Odysseus and Diomedes. They should do stand up!
And lastly I illustrated my favorite scene of the whole book. It takes place when they are on Mount Pelion under the tutelage of Chiron. I just think it is so incredibly touching.
This book is a game changer, if you haven’t already I heartily recommend it, thanks for reading!