Next book club will meet on Tuesday 25 June at 17:30

From member Nina Mistilis

Book club members were immersed in Greek mythology by reading and discussing ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” the son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary King Peleus, is strong, beautiful and charismatic. Patroclus his friend, is small, slight, unimpressive and awkward; he also is a Prince and was exiled from his homeland because he killed another boy, albeit in self-defence. The author chose Patroclus to be the narrator of the story.

The book is divided into two main parts. First their early life is narrated as young boys growing up meeting, becoming friends and their several years living in nature with Chiron the centaur, whose lessons continued to be a guiding force in their lives. They lived in a cave, learnt to live simply off the land, they had lessons in combat, natural healing, philosophy – it was a carefree, idyllic life.

As the boys grow into young men, the second part moves into fighting along with the other Greek States in the Trojan War. The Mycenaean King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces, had assembled the various Achaeans to join his military campaign against Troy, whose prince Paris had kidnapped his brother Menelaus’ wife Helen. This part delves into Achilles and other characters whose faults or virtues significantly affect the Trojan War.

After nine years of fighting, there was an explosive falling out between Achilles and King Agamemnon which resulting in Achilles pride preventing him and his army from further participating in the war – which the Greeks were now losing. Patroclus, who is not a warrior, puts on Achilles armour and rushes to battle; he is killed by Hector son of King Priam of Troy. His body is brought to Achilles who intensely grieves and asks for Patroclus’ ashes to be mixed with his own when he dies. He returns to battle where he dramatically pursues and kills Hector to avenge the death of his beloved Patroclus: then Achilles is killed, by Paris.

Thus his fate, which he knew all his life, is determined, his destiny fulfilled: that he would die after Hector.

Myths are often called “timeless” for their insights into human behaviour; book club members saw many parallels in the narration with modern life – of pride, love and the best and worst human behaviour. They discussed if there were examples in Australia and the world today regarding the will or personality of a single person affecting the course of history?

Score: 7/10 – Range from 6-8.

Three words to describe the book were: Complicated mythological retelling; nature, nurture, narcissism; romance and gore

Next book club will meet on Tuesday 25 June at 17:30 to discuss “Tom Lake” by Ann Patchett.