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.