CIRCE by Madeline Miller

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.

Summary from Goodreads

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

My Review

From it’s first sentence, Circe by Madeline Miller draws you into a firmly mythological world, filled with familiar faces painted with a new brush. I loved the way Miller wrote the world of Circe. Magical, ethereal, allowing the mythic atmosphere that is so vital to Greek legends to remain fully intact.

I have a dim memory of the most central Circe myth, but I do not remember how it ends. Which doesn’t matter, because I am keeping this ending. This was an exceptionally satisfying read for so many reasons.

Circe is such a great character. I loved reading about her. And there were so many situations centered around the feminine experience that Miller handled with such a fine and engaging brush . . . Circe is a lyrical portrait of a divine woman whose long life is an epic of strength and perseverance.

The writing! It has to be one of my favorite things about this book. Miller’s writing carries a fairy tale sensibility with it that transports the reader into her world much like books in our childhood did. Yes, the story is based around mythology already, but there’s also a mythic element to the writing itself. A modern version of mythic prose, and one I would like to see become something to aspire to in the modern mythic genre. Not, of course, for it to be the same as Madeline Miller’s, or for there to be any attempted copycats, but for that same sense of child-like wonder in the myth, that willingness to go back to the magic of the original story – for that to be infused in modern mythic prose I think would imbue the genre of modern mythology, fairy tale, and legend with new life.

Now I’m just waxing poetic, but this is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve read in my lifetime. Certainly, for this year so far.

Content Note: Some spare descriptions of assault and physical violence, some mentions of rape and bestiality (not graphically portrayed), some language, and some abusive situations.

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