Patroclus, ugly duckling son of a minor Greek King, accidentally kills another boy who is bullying him and is exiled from his father's court to be fostered by the father of Achilles. As the two boys grow up together, hero worship on the part of Patroclus turns into a full blown crush and then desperate gay desire. Thetis, immortal nymph mother of Achilles does not approve and sends Achilles to Chiron the centaur to be educated; Patroclus follows. The Paris of Troy abducts Helen, the wife of Menelaus and the Trojan war begins. Achilles, promised glory, leads his men, the Myrmidons, to Troy and Patroclus follows.
This is the Iliad as narrated by Patroclus, who plays a minor but essential role. The love story is romantic and lyrical; the desire is always on the beautiful side of lust. The mythical creatures and the gods and half-gods are described with a reality that keeps them credible. Over-shadowing it all are the prophecies: that Achilles shall win immortal glory but die if he goes to Troy; that he shall not die before Hector dies; that he shall only die after the death of the 'Best of the Myrmidons'. Patroclus is sick with the knowledge that his lover shall die; he can imagine no life without Achilles.
The myth and magic, the love and death, are written in simple, unadorned prose. This makes the suspension of disbelief easier and the book builds to a haunting climax. The last few chapters are brilliantly and seamlessly done and the inevitable, expected ending is so unbearable and yet so right that it was difficult to read.
Brilliant. April 2015; 352 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57