Circe by Madeline Miller
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.
After reading The Song of Achilles I was really excited to read this book by Miller but I must admit I was slightly disappointed because it just didn’t seem to have the same polish to it like The Song of Achilles.
Circe is an interesting character from the myths of ancient Greece and Miller has taken an interesting view of Circe’s story. Circe is the daughter of a Titan and the Oceanid nymph Perse, but Circe and her three siblings are not the normal offspring of a Titan and a nymph, they have abilities that Zeus fears greatly. Circe sadly is ignored by her family because she does not look or sound like a being that possesses divinity so she turns to mortals for friendship.
I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Circe in this book as she never seems to get a break and when things do start to go well something always happens for that to change. However, I do think Miller has used her literary license here to make Circe’s story rather depressing at times. As someone who is studying Classics I will be honest I was bit annoyed how Miller treated certain things like Glaucus but I will forgive her. I did like how Miller included the Golden Fleece and the Minotaur in the story and was pleased to see them included.
Circe only really acts like she does because she lacked guidance from her elders and had to make her own way in the world. As her life went on she makes decisions based on the way she has been treated and some of those are good and some are bad and some she regrets dearly. Everything she does helps her decide where she belongs in the world.
Circe is quite often depicted as a loose woman who preys on men but Miller hasn’t gone down that route thankfully and been kinder to Circe. However, I am not too keen on some of the aspects Miller has chosen to either avoid or rewrite about Circe and that for me was a real shame. I did really enjoy the book though and give it 4 out of 5 Dragons.
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About the author
Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.