July 29th: Review of The Song of Achilles
It had been too long since I last disagreed with the general opinion. I am back on the less popular side of the boat! Although I did not hate this book, I cannot say it blew my mind to the point it automatically made it to the top 10 of my 2016 reads. So what happened? (No, nothing fell from the sky directly on my head, making it hard to appreciate this book.)
Reasons why I should have loved this book
#1 I used to love mythology
From age 5 to 12, I loved everything about mythology. I would compare the Roman and Greek Gods, play Zeus, Master of Olympus on my computer, read all the books I could find on the subject.
Sadly, my memory failed me. I can no longer recall much about anything. Still, it was fun to dive again into a world I was so passionate about.
#2 The writing is smooth and easy to follow
The author has a lovely style and all you have to do is go with the flow. She takes you to Greece from the first page and depicts the era so perfectly you feel completely at ease. I felt right in the middle of a tragedy, which is exactly where I was indeed. The characterization is powerful, the protagonists feel so real, whether they are human or not. I really enjoyed witnessing them live, struggle, and fight.
#3 I want to visit Greece so badly.
#4 I am pretty sure it is the first book dealing with homosexuality I’ve ever purchased.
How could I not notice this? Of course, some books on my shelves surely mention it, or deal with it some way or another, but I don’t think it ever was a major point in one of my previous readings. That is wrong. More diversity please!
Reasons why I cannot give this book more than 3 stars
#1 I kept skimming over.
At first, it was innocent. A couple of sentences here, a paragraph there. Then came the war. I just could not bring myself to enjoy it. I am pretty sure those stranded soldiers got bored at some point too. At least until they got killed. Events dragged for too long and the same issues were brought one too many times to keep my mind from drifting away to the shopping list I needed to write or that nail polish I really wanted to get. My interest came back eventually, but I never felt entirely drawn to the story.
#2 Patroclus should have had access to iTunes.
Maybe a few love songs could have helped him see how selfish Achilles was at some point. He would have had the time to get the hell out of here before that tragic ending. I knew it would not end well, but when Patroclus exposed his plan to help Achilles by *spoiler* going out there by pretending to be the hero, it was obvious the promise of not putting himself in harm’s way was stupid. *end of spoiler* Yes, it was powerful and beautiful and heart-breaking, but it felt too predictable. I know, Greek tragedies are known for that showoff moment, but it just did not work for me. I was sad for Patroclus, but Achilles left me dead cold.
#3 Name it!
I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble remembering names. I could not recall who was who, which son belonged to which king, which king had which land, who was friend with who. It felt like a soap opera casting. It did not help connecting with the story and the characters.
Overall, it was an okay read. I cared for Patroclus, felt his joys and his pains. This book is a one-way ticket to ancient Greece, with its complex society and flamboyant people. Still, I can’t see where the hype comes from.