I am, admittedly, very late to the Madeline Miller party. Which is incredibly embarrassing, given the chance that I had to be early. As part of the latest round of book club selections, this is one that has been sitting on my shelf as an ARC from late 2017, a signed ARC no less, that I hadn’t gotten around to ’til now.
From the publisher marketing:
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.
Sons were not punished.
I wish I had not had to rush through Circe. Part of picking it as a book club book was to ensure that I didn’t, but I also have a new thing about not reading multiple fiction books at once, and I really did think I was going to finish Suzanna Hoff’s This Bird Has Flown in plenty of time to savor Circe. But alas, the best laid plans… I still haven’t finished This Bird Has Flown and I still wound up reading my book club book at the last minute.
My dear husband also lectured me on my time management with this one – we had 14 hours of driving (a round trip to southern Maine from the Philly suburbs) and I didn’t put forth listening to Circe as an option when we were planning auditory delights for the trip. Silly me. He also wanted to read it, it would have been perfect. But again, the best laid plans….
To say that I’m disappointed in myself for rushing through this absolute gem would be quite the understatement. Circe is very good. The hype is not wrong. It is a very feminist forward retelling of a goddess that didn’t get her due in most retellings and in the Odyssey. As my friend Marielle put it at our book club meeting (with nine! people), Circe was always just a footnote in someone else’s story, so we all enjoyed getting to see her have her own story here.
Overall, we all enjoyed Circe. No one had a bad word to say about it and we had a very lively conversation about her “life” and Madeline’s retelling of it. I had a low-key panic attack about running book club with a bunch of new people, but that side of things also went well. I came prepared with Madeline’s own discussion questions about the book and everyone thought it was pretty cool to see what the author of the book actually wanted readers to glean from the story.
My only gripe, as it often is, is that Circe was in first person. Now, here it did make sense – this was her story and that was the whole point. For her to convey her own experience to us. It also made for a pretty easy and quick read (helpful when in a hurry), but I wish we had had a third person close focus narration style for the book – I would have loved to see the world Madeline created a little bit more from a more omniscient perspective.
It was also interesting to see what she focused on for Circe’s thousand mortal lifetimes. I had expected it to be more dominated by Odysseus, but he didn’t show up until halfway through the book which I was actually happy about – I didn’t really know much of her history before that so it was very neat to see Madeline’s imagining of her childhood and adolescence, as well as her relationships with her siblings.
At the end of the day, yes. Circe is worth the hype and yes, you should definitely read it.
Rating: 8 out of 10
1 thought on “Circe by Madeline Miller”
Glad you enjoyed this one – I definitely thought the hype was legit for this one too!
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