By: Madeline Miller
Fantasy, Historical Fiction (??)
Published: April 10, 2018
(**This book contains scenes with first person accounts of trauma experienced by a woman at the hands of men, which may be upsetting to some. If you feel like this may be the case for you, then you might want to pass on this book)
From the Cover
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
I took a class in Greek mythology in high school but do not ever recall learning about Circe. I must admit, I felt a little trepidation about reading this book as I never felt like I completely “clicked” with Greek mythological stories. They seemed too far-fetched to feel realistic, which made it difficult for me to feel any kind of empathy with some of the big name players in Greek myth.
Reading Circe felt different. It still felt like a true retelling of a Greek myth story, but this time I felt connected with the main character. Circe felt more human than deity; Miller seems to work hard to humanize the emotions of Circe in a way that does not compromise the historical story but makes the readers feel more empathetic to her. If you took away all of the context behind Circe’s identity and family, you would be left with a story that I feel is likely similar to many women today.
“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”
Circe’s character development is likely one of the greatest I have yet to read. The story begins with her living amongst the gods– seemingly a pawn in the life of her father and mother–until she comes to realize her own powers. These powers are what lead her to trouble and are the cause of her exile. It is while in exile that she undergoes the greatest character transformation. She suffers under the abuse of men, but uses her wit and anger to find ways to protect herself in the future (Ever heard of the saying, “Men are pigs?” Well, keep this one in mind when reading haha).
“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”
She comes to understand her own strength and full scope of her powers. She experiences love, loss, and motherhood. Circe takes what was meant to be an infinite existence of depravity and loneliness and turns it into something beautiful. I think there are many parts of her story that can be taken and applied to current times. Circe is a book about feminism. It is also about making the best of the lives we are given–to live selflessly and with gratitude.
“The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”
Getting crafty While reading this book, I felt the urge to ~~get crafty~~ and depict a scene from the book. Maybe I’ll do this with another book in the future because it was *quite* fun!