Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 10th April, 2018
So you’re telling me that a book about Greek Mythology with a badass feminist main character who is a sorceress has been out for over a year, and I only read it now?
If y’all have been following this blog for a bit, you might know that Percy Jackson is my favourite series of all time. Because of Percy Jackson, I’ve always been obsessed with Greek mythology, so when I saw Circe sitting around at my school library, I read the synopsis, hid it in one of the shelves, came back to the library the next day, returned all my overdue books, and borrowed it. I was definitely not disappointed.
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.
There’s a lot going on with the plot of this book. It’s a story of an outcast, a woman searching for love in a loveless life, a story of cruelty, satisfactory vengeance, patience, tolerance, anger, and forgiveness. We see such an evolution in the plot, and so many storylines tie together in one to give us an extremely fulfilling book. There is so much suffering in this book, and this suffering is what fuels the anger, and then the power in this novel. The plot really encapsulates what we’ve always read in Greek mythology- cruelty, power, lust, but also love and forgiveness. And I loved how we got so much mythology in one book- snippets of Prometheus, Daedalus and Icarus, Medea, The Minotaur, Pasiphae- just so many characters of antiquity who I loved identifying throughout. The writing was absolutely gorgeous- Madeline Miller really went all out with it. Miller’s storytelling is so engaging and captivating, and is so skilful at weaving Circe’s thoughts throughout the novel. Yet she does it in a way that doesn’t manipulate the readers- the narrative is wide yet has a focus on Circe and her life.
At its very core, this novel explores the voice of women in Greek mythology. I’ve always read of Circe as an evil, wicked enchantress. But when have we ever seen her circumstances? When have we seen the way she’s treated by her family, the way she is abandoned when she most needs someone? When have we seen the violence and the abuse she has endured? A powerful female is always considered cruel, and to some extent, that is the way Circe is portrayed. But Circe is so much more than that. We see her character evolve over the course of this book- from the angry, vengeful enchantress, to a lover, to a patient mother. Yet she never loses that sense of dignity and that strength that has allowed her to endure so much. And I have to say, it’s somehow empowering to read about a woman who is suppressed, abused, and walked over who finally finds her voice, and gets revenge.
A quick note: I loved the development of the relationships. The relationships between Circe, Telegonus, and Telemachus. And I adored some of the quotes from this book. Hard hitting and empowering. Read some of them and FEEL WHAT I DID.
“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.”
“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
“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.”
“I thought: I cannot bear this world a moment longer. Then, child, make another.”
“So many years I had spent as a child sifting his bright features for his thoughts, trying to glimpse among them one that bore my name. But he was a harp with only one string, and the note it played was himself.
“You have always been the worst of my children,” he said. “Be sure to not dishonor me.”
“I have a better idea. I will do as I please, and when you count your children, leave me out.”
“You threw me to the crows, but it turns out I prefer them to you.”
The book did lose some steam near the middle, and kind of slowed down in pace, and maybe even lost the plot a bit?? Also, as much as I loved the relationships, god there were some really frustrating moments too.
Overall a really powerful, captivating, and empowering read. Highly recommended!!
Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you like Greek Mythology? Lemme know in the comments!
Thanks for reading!