Circe, Madeline Miller

Circe tells the story of the witch from the classic greek Odyssey. One of the minor characters and somewhat villains this alternate novel focuses on not only on her side of the story seen in the Odyssey, but her whole life. Born to the sun titan Helios and a nymph, Circe is one his many children, but only one of four that has magic witch like powers. The least cunning and most naive, Circe is scorned at by most, but has a relatively soft heart, and lacks the cruel nature most of the Gods cherish. This heart is taken advantage of though, and when she turns to revenge and pushes the gods to far, she is banished to an island alone in exile for the rest of her days. It is there that she’s truly becomes Circe, the Witch of Aiaia.

“I thought: I cannot bear this world a moment longer. Then, child, make another.”

I found this novel, which felt like a mix of mythology and coming of age, enjoyable and quite easy to read. Drawing on more of it’s classic side, the prose is beautiful, lovely turns of phrases, stunning landscapes and intricate storytelling really set the scene. We have stories within stories, classic fables, and mythological creatures, all woven into the overarching plot of Circe’s life story.

“You threw me to the crows, but it turns out I prefer them to you.”

At the same time, on the coming of age side, we follow Circe has she grows from weak child, to a powerful and old witch, from lonely to surrounded by people and  the full circle of her long life. This gives us a lot of understanding and perspective of her personality and actions, and presents another point of view some of the most known greek mythology.

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

Although not too long of a novel, with the prose heavy style, it did take me a while to read, though it didn’t feel like it dragged on to long as it was so packed with storey telling and characters that kept me interested. I particularly loved some of the characters we get to know along the way and the personalities of these Gods that are so familiar. As a fan of mythology I enjoyed how the novel weaved in more than just Circe’s connection to the Odyssey and we see some of the other stories come to life through her perspective and opinion. We also deal with a lot of different things in this novel, morality, humanity, love and loss. What the meaning of life and death is and lots of other philosophical questions. 

“In a solitary life, there are moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation he was to me.”

I am a huge fan of these retellings, as I’m sure given the books popularity many are. Having also read and really enjoyed The Song of Achilles I look forward to further novels from Miller! 

I read this for my 52 Book Club Reading Challenge prompt “a book set before the 17th Century”. You can check out my progress here.

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