Circe – Madeline Miller
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Madeline Miller’s retelling of classic Greek mythology focuses on the legend of Circe, an exiled goddess of magic. The famed daughter of the sun was banished to the deserted island, Aiaia, and developed her magic powers and herbs to turn her enemies into beasts, most notably turning Odysseus’s plagued crew into wild pigs. Her story is legend, her existence is myth, but Madeline Miller has made Circe real.
Greek mythology has always been fascinating, but strangely unattainable. The Odyssey is undeniably a masterpiece, but it never made my heart leap for joy or sorrow, even though Odysseus is clearly burdened with the latter. It is a work of art, but not exactly a work of passionate readership.
Miller wrote this iteration of Circe into being as a reaction to the disappointment in the narrative of The Odyssey. Miller sought out a representation in which Circe was the center of the universe, rather than Odysseus, and she worked to create a female character with her own agency and power.
I thought, there are so few female characters like this in Greek Mythology, who are really powerful, but not like, powerful with six heads who eat people.
Circe takes all of the intrigue and magic of famous Greek legacy, and turns into a powerful, victimized female protagonist that we can not only root for, but relate to. She is beaten down by her family and her shortcomings. She is repeatedly reminded of her mortality, her ugliness, and her failure. Instead of wallowing in her weakness, Circe finds her power and uses it to find her strengths, as well. The book reads like a matriarch telling the stories of her past. Each event is singularly impactful, but the threads connecting them to her life story are vivid and taut. She lives a life intertwined with famous heroes like Jason, Odysseus, and Daedalus, as well as with monsters like Scylla and the Minotaur. The book is star-studded with gods and goddesses, nymphs and Titans, and magic and despair. Circe has reinvigorated my childlike wonder of the Olympian world.
Madeline Miller has written an empowering biopic of a legendary Greek witch. Circe is cast out of her family, exiled and isolated, but she is fiercely independent, tremendously enduring, and genuinely heartfelt.
Thank you to Little Brown & Company and Netgalley for providing my copy in exchange for an honest review.