Circe by Madeline Miller: Book Review.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

CirceWhen love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love(Goodreads)

After reading and adoring The Song of Achilles last year, I was so incredibly excited for Circe to come out. I waited in anticipation and had to stop myself from starting it in the weeks before my dissertation deadline. I was disciplined, saving it for the week after I had handed in my final piece of coursework, and then I devoured it. It was worth the wait.

Madeline Miller is a naturally gifted storyteller. The way in which she recounts Greek myth is truly captivating, and for somebody who has a very limited knowledge of Greek mythology, I did not feel at all disadvantaged when reading this novel. It managed to explain and remind me who different Gods or characters were (I knew the names of many Gods but not their vocations) without making it an obvious Greek myth lesson. Instead, information was abundant but subtle. I’d recommend this to anybody, regardless of whether you have heard of Circe previously, or are at all familiar with Greek mythologies.

The writing in this novel is beautiful, atmospheric and incredibly moreish. The descriptions of setting, from the lands of the Gods and her father, Helios’ home, to the island to which she is exiled are so delightful to imagine. I found myself simultaneously wanting to eat the story up, while also wanting to read slowly and immerse myself, enjoying every word.

The plot of this novel is surprisingly full of different facets. Circe has many an interesting visitor to her island of exile and embarks on adventures of her own. These aspects incorporate some of the more famous Greek stories (including characters such as Odysseus, Prometheus, Jason and more), which will thrill any Greek mythology buff. I loved experiencing these famous characters and tales from the perspective of Circe, a small part of their larger stories.

circe 1

I loved this story and the portrayal of the Gods. I’ve always loved the Greek idea of multiple deities, and the way in which they are portrayed as being selfish and harsh and focused primarily on their pleasures.  While there are a number of interesting characters and Greek God guest stars, Circe is by far the most interesting. She is not necessarily a perfect character, possessing the flaws and impulse and erratic emotion which characterises Greek Gods. She does seemingly horrid things and at times makes silly mistakes. However, in ways this makes her far more of a realistic heroine to root for, and gives her an interesting, ‘mortal like’ quality. She experiences fantastic character development, after lifetimes of being treated and seen as nothing, being overlooked by those she hoped would love her, and some fairly brutal treatment she flourishes in exile, revelling in her own power and company, finding her strengths and developing. I love the idea that after experiencing so much pining and sadness at the hands of those who overlooked her she becomes all that she will ever need, depending far less on others. She exudes girl power and independence.

circe 2

Overall, I loved this book and I simply can’t recommend it to you enough. I think it may well be my favourite of the year, and may be one of my new favourites of all time. I would seriously recommend it. Beautiful, elegant, poignant, accessible for Greek novices (like myself), and a literary treat.

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