“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
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.
When 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.
My knowledge of Greek Mythology is quite slim. Aside from the Percy Jackson series and a class in High School, I haven’t had the pleasure of reading many novels that dealt with this subject. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of Greek Mythology! I’ve simply never took the time to read The Odyssey. Thankfully, I don’t believe anyone needs to be deeply familiar with Greek Mythology, or Circe in particular, to enjoy this novel. If anything, this might have helped me love the novel even more, since I wasn’t prematurely aware of all the events Circe played a role in. The sole reason I didn’t rate this novel five stars, was because the story is a bit too slow and tedious in the middle for my liking, and I struggled to emotionally connect with Circe at first. Once I eventually did learn to love her, the narrative blew me away. Miller’s writing is so fluid and lyrical that I couldn’t help being drawn in. The peaceful and alluring quality of it makes me want to recommend this novel because of the writing alone. Some authors possess the wondrous ability to beautifully tell stories, and Miller is definitely one of them.
Circe is a phenomenally complex, yet relatable character. This novel is an account of her life that spans over a great deal of time. As we’re quickly introduced to young Circe, it’s immediately evident that she suffers severe discrimination because she not only looks and sounds different from her siblings, but also has a deep rooted sense of sympathy and honesty. In spite of the way she is treated by her family, it’s clear that she is intelligent and clever, and has a few tricks up her sleeve. One of my favorite parts of this novel is the beginning, because I loved seeing how Circe gradually discovers herself, and strips away layers of her insecurities. After she is exiled to Aiaia, many tragedies and joyous occasions arise. Her love for mortals is what drove her to this punishment, so it seems only fitting that they are the chief reason behind all the pain and pleasure she receives in this life. What truly makes this novel worthwhile, is how beautifully Circe faces any obstacles that come her way. It’s lovely seeing how she develops, and how any actions and mistakes she makes in the past, shape her future decisions.
I love her relationships with other Mythological characters, brief as it may be. Circe meets several well-known characters in Greek Mythology throughout her immortal life, and it was fascinating seeing what pieces she adds to their stories. Prior to this novel, I had no idea of her involvement with Daedalus, Jason, or even Odysseus – my ignorance surprises even me at times – and it was such a treat to experience their tales in a new light. I particularly liked her significance and connection to Odysseus. Miller admirably explores the multiple dimensions of Odysseus and shows so many sides to him that aren’t often discussed – his savagery and brutality, for instance.
I didn’t realize how much I needed a mother-son relationship in a book until l read this. After racking my brain for a few minutes, I concluded that I have never read a novel that so beautifully depicts motherhood like this one. Granted, I can’t recall more than two books that shine a spotlight on a mother-son relationship at all, but Miller’s interpretation is so spectacular, that I doubt there are many other novels that can compare. A relationship of any sorts is bound to have conflict and sacrifice. It was heart-warming seeing how intently Circe cares for her son, and how she incessantly strives to love and protect him. Her worries, fears, delights, and all other emotions tied with her child made me feel so sympathetic for. I truly have to tip my hat off to Miller for crafting such a beautiful portrayal of a mother’s unconditional love.
Never before has a writing style soothed me as this one did. There’s a certain peaceful quality that I often associate with writing styles in classic novels. I have read a few books where modern-day authors successfully achieve this tone or quality, but Miller not only implements it seamlessly in Circe, but also, spins it in a way that is wholly unique and new. I could fill this review up with nothing but quotes from her masterpiece, and be perfectly content. The emotion and sheer power of Miller’s words is palpable, and truly brings the story alive. As I mentioned earlier, I do think the story drags slightly in the middle, but these pages still don’t take away from the enchanting writing.
Madeline Miller is a literal goddess. How else is she able to craft such a fantastic novel? I wish I had chosen to read Circe when I wasn’t in a slump, because I feel that might’ve hindered me from fully appreciating certain aspects of it. Nevertheless, it was a captivating read that I’m sure will be appreciated for dozens of years. Also, the cover is stunning. This would be a lovely addition to any bookshelf in my opinion!
Buddy read with Kaleena @ Reader Voracious