Fiction - Mythology
2018 Little, Brown and Company
Finished on March 24, 2021
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)
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.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.
In my typical fashion, I went into Circe completely blind. Not only did I not know the plot of Madeline Miller's outstanding tale, but I didn't have any knowledge of who Circe was in Greek mythology. I'm ashamed to admit that I have never read either The Iliad or The Odyssey and what little mythology I know, I learned in high school in my freshman English class. Suffice it to say, when I first started reading Circe, I spent a lot of time looking up background information on the various gods, goddesses, mortals and monsters that are mentioned in the book. I wish I had known ahead of time that the author had included a cast of characters at the back of the novel, but then I would have missed some entertaining videos about the Minotaur and Daedalus' Labyrinth. (Click here for one on TED-Ed.)
Trying to sort out the relationship between so many Titan and Olympian divinities, I found the beginning of Miller's book a little slow going, but once Circe was exiled to Aiaia, the pace picked up and I kept reading long into the night. Never could I have imagined a book about mythology could be such a page-turner! I enjoyed it so well that I'm tempted to give it a second read, this time on audio in order to hear the proper pronunciation of each name (something I struggled with the entire time I was reading the book).
I love it when a book not only entertains, but has me seeking out more about the subject matter. I'm inspired to not only read The Song of Achilles (Miller's debut novel), but also The Iliad and The Odyssey. If I were a high school English teacher, I would definitely use Miller's books as companion reads to Homer's epic tales.
Circe is an enchanting read and I'm thrilled to see that it is currently being adapted for a TV series by HBO Max.
Don't let the Greek Mythology turn you off. This is one compelling read! Highly recommend.
I loved it! I have Song of Achilles, but haven't read it yet. :)ReplyDelete
Wasn't it wonderful, Jenclair?! I plan to buy both books (I borrowed this one) and look forward to reading SoA. Be sure to check out the author's website, if you haven't already. Lots of interesting material/info.Delete
So happy to read your review, Les! We have identical mythology backgrounds... I used an audible credit for this book and DNF'd it pretty early on. Just couldn't figure out the relationships/background and, as I was walking, was in no position to google. I think I may give it another try at some point, but have a hard copy on hand to check out the cast of characters.ReplyDelete
JoAnn, I listened to a little bit of the audio sample and knew it wouldn't work for me, so I was glad to have the print edition. Now that I've read it, I would love to listen to it for a re-read. I'm sure I've pronounced a lot of the names incorrectly (in my head). I suggest you start with the print edition for the first few chapters and once Circe is banished, you can safely listen to the audio without feeling lost or confused.Delete
Good advice! Thanks :)Delete
I'm glad for the last sentence in this review. I've been a little intimidated by this book because I am not up on mythology either even though it fascinates me endlessly. I tried to pitch it twice to my book club but both times it went over like a lead balloon.ReplyDelete
Ti, I think you would really enjoy this novel. I was a little intimidated when I first heard about it, thinking it might be too intellectual for me, but it was very readable.Delete
Good for you for reading this! I had a great Greek Myth course in college, but it really should be offered in high schools. Lots there to interest kids.ReplyDelete
Nan, it was so readable! I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did and now I'm eager to read her other novel. I'll bet a Greek Myth class would be very interesting!Delete
This looks fascinating! I went through a phase of reading Greek and Roman mythology when I was a child. This is definitely going on my list!ReplyDelete
Laurel, it was so good! I can't wait to read Song of Achilles. And, I'm so excited that there's going to be a series based on Circe.Delete
Hope all is well with you guys. Nice weather for you? I have a friend on Sannibel and the recent sunsets have looked amazing! Take good care.
Our weather has been glorious! Of course, hell is on the way in a couple of months, but right now and since last fall it has been wonderful. Happy Spring! :-)Delete
My daughter asked if I read this as a friend recommended it highly, but, just didn't think it was for me. I had (2) mythology courses years and years ago. I still don't think it is for me though. Glad you enjoyed it.ReplyDelete
Diane, I'm not one to say "you should," but you really should give this a try. :)Delete
This one has appealed to me since it was published, but all of the stuff I don't know and would need to figure out has kept me from picking it up. Sounds like if I take the time it's worth it :)ReplyDelete
Stacy, I think anyone can read this and understand the main plot without having to figure out all the intricate details of the deities and monsters. It's quite accessible!Delete
I was so into mythology when I was a teen and then in college I even took a semester of mythology! My professor was awesome and just made it so all so interesting. However, my memory is probably a bit rusty to say the least on all the details. Still this book is one I really want to read. So glad it's a 5-star read!ReplyDelete
Iliana, if you're at all familiar with mythology, I think you would love this book!Delete
I'm so glad you loved this!ReplyDelete
I have a pretty solid background in mythology but that doesn't mean I remember everything. I didn't remember much about Circe, surprisingly. I did like that Miller tells Circe's story from her point of view because mythology tends to focus so much on the heroes' exploits and the women are there as goddesses, prey, or seductresses. I remember them as generally being very flat.
Jen, I think I enjoyed this for that exact reason; Circe's POV made the book much more readable. I'm actually surprised that my husband is also enjoying the book. It's not "women's fiction," but I had my doubts that he'd like it. Guess I was wrong!Delete