To DNF or Not to DNF: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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There was a time when I would absolutely finish every book I started to read. If I had cracked the first page I was going to see it through to the end. But over time, as I read more and began to discover my reading preferences, I realized that sometimes a book may just simply not be for me. There might be many reasons why a certain story doesn’t click for me in the moment, but I have come to accept that when I know it is not working out, rather than struggling to finish, it is okay to set it aside and call it a day. I’m always curious to know which books readers have DNFd and why, so I thought I would start sharing my experiences with books I choose to not finish reading.


This time around I will be talking about The Song of Achilles, the much loved novel that delves into the story of the great Achilles. I absolutely loved Madeline Miller’s most recent novel, Circe and was interested in reading more books from her. This is one of those cases where I like the writing and the storytelling but cannot get into the story. It is somewhat slow-moving but I don’t mind that, especially when I am enjoying the writing style and will happily go along for the journey. Here, however, I found myself gripped by parts of the story only to lose interest. Then I would get into it again and fade out yet again. I did not want to set this one aside, and ended up picking it up and putting it down for pretty much the entire month of February. What wasn’t clicking here? As I attempted to read on yet again, I finally realized what the reason was exactly: the narrator. The tale is told through the perspective of Patroclus, the awkward, exiled young prince who forms an inseparable bond with Achilles. I found this character incredibly bland. And instead of getting a better sense of this person as I read, I just became more and more aware of how bland he is. Problematic for a key character, not to mention a narrator.

While I truly wanted to finish this novel, my attempts to continue were keeping me from picking up other books, and before I fully sunk into a reading slump I decided to set it aside. I got through just under 200 pages and at this time this is where we part ways. Maybe I will feel the urge to pick it up again at some point, maybe not. But right now I am content to leave the story at this time.

Have you read The Song of Achilles? If so, do you recommend sticking to it?

Do you find it difficult to DNF books?

5 thoughts on “To DNF or Not to DNF: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

  1. I usually try to finish books, especially if they’re library loans, but if I have a stack of books I’m more curious about, I tend to sacrifice whatever’s not doing it for me to the bottom of my priority list.

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  2. I do fully support DNFing books. I personally really enjoyed Song of Achilles and hear Miller speak about it and Circe last month. Part of what is interesting about her take, and Patroclous, is that in the original myth he is always described as kind. Not brave, or warlike, or deadly but kind. I think Miller makes that very apparent in her writing but he is certainly not the most dynamic character in the store.

    If you like the era and want another Troy retelling I would recommend The Silence of the Girls.

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    1. Thank you for the recommendation! How wonderful that you were able to hear the author speak about her books. I completely understand that take on Patroclus and I think keeping that in mind does help put his character in perspective. I will revisit The Song of Achilles at a later time because I am curious to see the whole story.


  3. I tend to see books through if I can. Recently, I didn’t finish Bleak House (I got about two-thirds of the way through); I was enjoying it, but it didn’t really suit my mood at the time – I am planning to pick it back up again. However, sometimes life is just too short, and if you’re not enjoying something, I don’t think it’s that bad to leave it for another you might enjoy more.

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    1. Completely agree. And as someone who is very much a mood reader sometimes setting a book aside is a must. If you are not in the mood for a particular story there is very little chance that you will end up enjoying it.

      Liked by 1 person

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