Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date: 10th April 2018
Circe was the first book I’ve read for 2019 and I am so glad it was because this book is incredible. Words cannot even describe how much I enjoyed and loved this book. Greek mythology has always been something close to my heart. I’ve read many books about it, anything from fantasy to historic and it always captures my attention. I even started writing my own Greek mythology inspired story at one point (which I am inspired to go back to now). I’ve read about many of the gods and goddesses, but I had never heard of Circe before now, but she is definitely one of my favourites.
Circe is a nymph and the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and one of the Titans who sided with Zeus in the battle between the Titans and the Olympians. She isn’t as powerful as him, nor is she as alluring and mysterious as her mother. Circe is an outcast among her kind and so she turns to the mortals, feeling more like them than her own family. It is during her time with them that she discovers she isn’t powerless, that she is, in fact, a witch. Using her will, she can turn her rivals into monsters and cause the gods to fear her so much that she is sent to live in isolation on the island of Aeaea. While there, she hones her crafts, tames the wild animals of the island and meets some of the most famous figures in history such as the Minotaur, Medea and even Odysseus. However, she is not safe on her island and goes up against one of the strongest and most brutal of the gods and goddesses. If she wants to protect that which matters most to her, she must use all her strength and decide where she belongs; among the gods or the mortals.
I don’t even know where to begin with describing how much I loved reading Circe. I guess the best place is to start with the character herself. It isn’t often where I feel strongly for a certain character, but I did with Circe. She was an outcast and I could relate to that so much. When I was younger I felt like I was on the outside at times and it was awful reading how the other gods and goddesses, her own siblings, treated her. I wanted her to be happy, and when she thought she had her chance, it was taken away from her. Before reading this, I did a little research to find out who Circe was and found out that she was mentioned in The Odyssey, where she turns men into pigs. We find out later on in this story why she does this.
After discovering her powers by turning her rival into a monstrous sea monster, Circe is sent by Zeus to live on an island by herself, where she starts to discover who she truly is. While there, she learns more about her craft and how she takes control of her life. She isn’t perfect by any means, she has flaws like all of us, but that only made her more likeable. I also enjoyed reading about her interactions with her siblings, mainly her sister Pasiphaë, who is famous for giving birth to the Minotaur, which is as disturbing as you think it is. That led to her meeting Daedalus and eventually learning about his son, Icarus, and we all know what happened to him. She is told about the outside world by Hermes, who often visits her, and we realise how lonely it must be for her, but she doesn’t let that loneliness cripple her.
It wasn’t always easy and when men started arriving at her shores, looking for help, I had an inkling that something bad would happen (trigger warning: rape). However, she doesn’t allow what happened to her to define her and bring her down. Instead, she becomes strong and whenever she is threatened, she turns the men into pigs, until she meets Odysseus. Their story was one of my favourite parts of this book. If you want to know what their relationship is like, then this quote sums it up quite well.
“Odysseus, son of Laertes, the great traveller, prince of wiles and tricks and a thousand ways. He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
I enjoyed reading about their time together and how it shaped Circe, eventually gifting her with a child who she would protect at all costs against Athena. This part of this story was also one of my favourites because it showed the lengths a mother would go to protect her son. While I could mention what happened, I don’t want to because I want you all to read this book and see the incredible story-telling that is written in Circe. Circe embraces who she is and will not let anyone tear her down, which is why I love her character so much. This is a story about her life, the pain she went through, the love she felt, all the heartache and desire that clouded her emotions and it is a story about motherhood.
When it comes to world-building, I think that Madeline Miller is one of the best. I could picture everything, from the Oceanus, where she grew up, to her adventures out in the world and on her little island. I could smell the salt of the sea and feel her emotions as if they were my own, it was honestly magical. Circe is a book I know I will read again in the future as there is so much detail that I want to read more of, to find out more that I may have missed. I didn’t want to put this book down at all and when that happens, I just know it is a story that will forever stay with me.
I could go on and on about the masterpiece that is Circe and how much I loved every second of reading, but I think the best way for you to understand how good it is, is to read it yourself. The easiest 5 stars I have ever given and probably in my top 5 favourite books of all time. It is seriously that amazing!