Book review: “The Song of Achilles”, by Madeline Miller, and “My Sister the Serial Killer”, by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The Song of Achilles

I LOVED THIS BOOK. i picked it up a little bit on a whim from amazon’s not-a-library library, and ended up tearing through it in 3 days (which is remarkable for me, now that i am old and my attention span is shit).

the book itself is told from the point of view of patroclus, starting from the time he’s fostered by achilles’s father, and also: it is explicitly gay (which is really the #1 thing i require from my achilles-related stories; sorry cishets, he’s ours!!!). obviously: it is a tragedy, but the ending is — about as happy as you can get from a retelling of the tragedy of achilles.

one of the things i really like about ancient greek tragedies is the sense of impending doom over all of them — so many of these stories, the main characters know their fate and try to escape it, but find it’s inescapable and their struggles only make things worse. that feeling suffuses every page of this book, and the ending had enough grace to make me weep like a baby.

My Sister the Serial Killer

this — was okay, i guess. i think i would have liked it better if i’d read it a couple years ago or read it a couple of years in the future — the main character’s determination to stay tied to a shitty person Because Of Family was thoroughly unsatisfying for me, a person who is effectively an orphan now, thanks to deliberately cutting bad family putting me in a bad place out of my life. i wanted to like this more than i did, and — again, it was fine, just not for me, i think.

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  1. I also had a very lukewarm reaction to My Sister, The Serial Killer, so I don’t think it’s just your circumstances that are leading you not to like it. Like, I felt like it was something that I really _should_ like, and I like the _concept_, but I just couldn’t get all the way there.

    1. i’ve been thinking about this comment on and off for a minute, since i really just assumed it must be because i’m estranged from my family that i’ve been made responsible for — is it maybe that the ties between the main character and ayoola don’t feel secure enough? like, i get the central thrust of needing to protect her sister over everything else, i guess it just felt like ayoola was JUST a burden and JUST making things worse with none of the usual cycle of abuse-esque good (or “good”, yk) parts?

  2. I think you’re onto something there. There’s basically no part in the narrative where ayoola is anything other than a burden. There’s shared childhood trauma but no real fondness. Maybe it’s that this feels like a portrait of an abusive relationship by someone who maybe hasn’t been in one? I don’t know the author’s history, but it just feels off.

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