If you’re into historical fiction and/or Greek mythology, then The Song of Achilles is the perfect choice for your book club. It’s a story inspired by the Greek epic poem, The Iliad, however, Miller, provides detailed backstories and insight into characters that were not fleshed out in Homer’s Iliad.
The Song of Achilles is told from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ friend and companion. Achilles and Patroclus grow up together in the same household, from childhood to adulthood. As the story unfolds, their platonic friendship grows to love.
Achilles’ eventual downfall was foretold from prophecy, and it was rooted in his wounded pride and ego, and the wrath that follows from it. An epic tale about, friendship, love, legacies, fate, divine power, and ethics of war– all rolled into one heroic love story. It definitely leaves a lasting impression.
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Use our The Song of Achilles book club questions and guide to help get the conversation flowing with your group. After finishing the last line of the story, your group will definitely feel your heart strings getting pulled, and maybe even shed a tear or two. The Song of Achilles is a beautiful, yet tragic, love story laced with heroism.
In addition to the questions, our Song of Achilles discussion guide also includes a synopsis of the book and some selected reviews that you can use for fodder. And if you liked the book, we’ve also got three more books like Song of Achilles to add to your TBR pile.
Song of Achilles Synopsis
Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller’s monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights—and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.
10 Song of Achilles Book Club Questions
- Achilles tells his father that he thinks Patroclus is surprising, what do you think he meant by that? How does Patroclus differ from the other boys in the household?
- Have you read The Iliad? If so, how does Patroclus’ character in The Song of Achilles differ from the one portrayed in the original ? And if you haven’t read it, how do you think your experience of the book would be different from someone who has read it?
- Thetis has a huge disdain towards Patroclus, why do you think that is? Do you think it’s because she foresaw what was to come in a prophecy, and wanted to prevent Achilles’ fate?
- Deidamia summons Patroclus to her chambers, she asks him what does Achilles possibly see in him and calls him ugly then proceeds to have sex with him. Why do you think Deidamia does this? Why does Patroclus go through with it as well?
- Before his death, Hector asks to have his body returned to his family. Achilles ignores his wish and drags his body around for all to see. Why do you think Achilles went against his wishes? Does this act help cause Achilles’ downfall?
- Thetis asked Chiron to not allow Patroclus to follow Achilles to Mount Pelion, however, Chiron ignored her request, why do you think he did that?
- After the Greeks won several raids, Achilles takes Bresis as his war prize and helps save her from Agamemnon’s lustful wrath upon Patroclus’ request to do so. Does this make Patroclus heroic?
- After Achilles death, Pyrrhus joins the war, and refuses to allow Patroclus lay in the same tomb as Achilles, going against Achilles’ wish. He kills Briseis after she refuses his advances, and sacrifices Princess Polyxena. How does Pyrrhus differ from his father, Achilles? How are they the same?
- Thetis marks a spot for Patroclus next to Achilles’ tomb which allows the two to finally reunite in the underworld. Did this change your perspective of her?
- There are many Greek heroes in the book. Who do you think Miller portrays as the most heroic? Why?
Selected Reviews for Song of Achilles
“This is such a good book! It’s a page turner, once you start you don’t want to stop reading it! It shows the traits of true friends, lovers, enemies, bond, kindness, innocence, and of course pure love. If you read this you will need a box of tissues, it’s heart wrenching in the best way. This book gives a glimpse into Greek mythology that you don’t see in many books, its truly intriguing and amazing”
“Beautiful. This is more than just a book, it is the essence of life caught mid swoop in words on a page. I am envious of those who may read this book for the first time, each page a new and fresh and wonderful. Once you read the last sentence on the last page, the profound sense of melancholy heartache and sorrow is overwhelming, a rare and remarkable mix of feelings, forever leaving a mark on your character.”
“Miller’s novel is a truly beautiful reimagining of the life of Achilles. You need no preconceived ideas of Greek mythology, Miller covers everything you need to know in order to understand the lives of each individual character. I am a big fan of Miller’s writing style, she writes in great detail without rambling or wasting words. She makes her reader feel as though they know exactly what will happen next, whilst simultaneously presenting them with the unexpected.”
“Going into this read I had pretty high expectations: people all over BookTok had been raving about it, how it made them sob or made them believe in love. And as much as I want to love this book, I’m afraid those expectations were let down. The writing style I found was very reminiscent of Wilbur Smith…however, unlike Wilbur’s novels, I did not have much of an emotional connection or reaction to this book. This was probably the biggest let down for me because it is such an emotional tale filled of love and sacrifice, longing and hatred but the writing didn’t enable me to feel any of these emotions personally.”
4 Books like Song of Achilles
Circe, by Madeline Miller
This story is written by the same author as The Song of Achilles. This story doesn’t involve the hero, Achilles but focuses on the life of Circe, a minor goddess who is daughter to the sun god, Helios. The story starts out with Circe’s early life living among her father, Helios and her mother, an Oceanid nymph named Perse. Circe discovers her powers of sorcery by turning a man into a god and turning a nymph into a sea creature called Scylla. Her father banishes her to an island, Aeaea, where she lives for the rest of her life.
If you read this one for book club, we have a guide for Circe.
Trail of Lightening (Sixth World #1), Rebecca Roanhorse
If you’d like more gods and monsters, not not necessarily Greek gods and monsters, then check out the Sixth World series from Rebecca Roanhorse. The series is set in a post apocalyptic near future within the Navajo Nation. The main character Maggie is a Dinétah monster hunter. When she is enlisted to find out what happened to a missing girl, she finds much more than she bargained for.
The series features Navajo shamanic traditions, ancient legends and the trickster Coyote. It’s a great pick if you are trying to diversify your author list…and also if you want a main character who kicks butt and takes names.
The Iliad, by Homer
This Greek epic poem is over 2,700 years old. It is set during the last year of the Trojan War and Achilles is the major character in the poem, leading the Myrmidons against the Trojans. The story covers a couple weeks of the last year of the war during the ego/power struggle between Achilles and Agamemnon. Achilles is depicted as vengeful and petty early on in the story but towards the end, he transforms and exhibits the makings of a hero.
Medea, by Euripides
An ancient Greek tragedy dating back to the 5th Century. It’s based on the myth of Medea, the wife of Jason and their involvement with the infamous golden fleece. Medea, is a relative of Circe, who also has magical powers and the gift of prophecy. These gifts allow her to help Jason obtain the Golden Fleece from her father, King Aeetes. Medea is portrayed as an antihero, who carries out some unspeakable acts.
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