Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

I have always been interested by mythology, especially Roman and Greek. In Madeline Miller’s Circe, the story is centered around Greek mythology. In many stories and legends, like the one of Odysseus in The Odyssey, Circe is more of a side character. I liked that she was able to get her own story, even if fictional. Overall, I enjoyed Miller’s take on Circe’s story.

Blurb: 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.

While I did really enjoy this one, it was a very slow paced book, which isn’t a bad thing, but it is something to note. I think that this book is definitely more character driven than plot driven (though there is a loose plot of Circe’s life).

Miller’s writing was very fluid, but not overly descriptive, which I really liked, especially paired with the pacing. I always know the writing is well done regardless of anything else if I can easily picture everything in a scene. Additionally, while easy to read, it still felt like I was reading a novel from decades ago .. as if Homer himself wrote it (though obviously not in poem form).

Before reading this book, I honestly did not know or remember much of Circe beyond vague recollections of appearance in The Odyssey. In that appearance, I don’t think she was written as the good person as she is in Miller’s retelling (but don’t take my word for it). Either way, I enjoyed reading and going on Circe’s journey with her, which takes place over many generations. Even over that time and her being immortal, it’s obvious that she fits in well with human society as Miller wrote her with an interesting blend of immortal and human qualities. That blend made her an awesome characterization of a strong woman who faces a multitude of challenges yet finds a way to overcome them all.

Miller tackled many ideas and themes like transformation, motherhood, family, and power; all of which were weaved into the story seamlessly. I found Circe to be a powerful book, one that needs to be savored while reading. It might just be a perfect read for the transitional period between Fall and Winter or even during Winter if you haven’t read it yet.

Some exciting new that I found is that Circe will be adapted for eight episodes on the forthcoming streaming service HBO Max for 8 episodes; you can find more information on Madeline Miller’s site.

Have you had a chance to dive into Circe’s story? What were your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

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