Circe by Madeline Miller
Why has it taken me this long to read this book!!! ARGH! This book has been on my to read list for 2 whole years! Can we also discuss how stunningly gorgeous the cover is?! It's my absolute fav. I have wanted to read Circe since it came out and took the book world by storm back in 2018. I LOVE Madeline Miller's writing. Ever since I read her amazing book The Song of Achilles, another Greek Mythology book, which was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction back in 2012, of which I gave a raving 10/10 for btw (link is below this review)! I knew her 2nd novel, Circe would be just as good. Circe was on the NY best seller list for 16 weeks, and it was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Washington Post, TIME, Entertainment Weekly and more. It also won Goodreads choice of the year for 2018. That’s massive! I honestly cannot believe it took me this long to read this book. I’ve also never seen a book such as this be completely saturated all over the Instagram book world, you couldn't get away from it & you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Circe. As you may or may not know, I’m a huuuge greek mythology lover. Huge. So yeah I had high expectations.
Oh and a big thanks to my little sister Bridgit and her hubby Joe for gifting me this gorgeous book for my birthday back in 2018 :) better late than never to read it right?! Read on peeps.
The setting is an enchanting Greek Island named Aiaia (in Homer’s Odyssey, the spelling is Aeaea)
In the house of Helios, god of the Sun, mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child. She is not like the other goddesses, nor is she powerful like her father, or viciously alluring like her Nymph mother Perse. Circe turns to the world of mortals for companionship and soon discovers she does in fact possess a power, the power of witchcraft, of which she can transform any rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened by this newly discovered power, Zeus, the king of all gods & men, banishes Circe to a deserted island named Aiaia. Circe lives in Aiaia for centuries and learns to hone her power and soon is able to tame wild beasts and perfect her witchcraft. She crosses paths with some of the most famous mythology figures such as Medea, the Minotaur, Daedalus & his son Icarus, and the one and only wily untamable Odysseus.
On this island, there is danger for a woman who stands alone. Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men & gods and finds herself pitted against one of the most feared and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must gather and summon all of her strength and skill and choose once and for all, where she truly belongs. Either with the gods of where is from and born into, or with the mortals that she has come to love.
I lived and breathed this book. Every single word was like a drop of the sweetest honey there ever was. Where do I even begin with my review?!
Okay, let’s start with the story itself. Circe, what a goddess. I adored Miller’s retelling of this amazing mythology story. I had actually heard of of the name Circe maybe once in my life, but I didn’t know anything beyond that about Circe until I read this book. I seriously need to go ahead and read some classics after this book.
Miller is an incredible storyteller. This book is a slow burner but my god it’s an insanely satisfying page-turning read. So much happens in this book, it’s ridiculously layered & epic. We follow Circe as the protagonist, from her youth right up until she finally gets to know who she truly is and where she fits in, It’s epic. She has a tough upbringing and isn’t respected much by her family given that she barely possesses any power [no pressure with her dad being the god of sun and all!], until she discovers she has a knack for witchery which ends up getting her banished to the desolated island of Aiaia. Once she gets to Aiaia, that’s where the story truly takes shape. It’s funny how time is a completely different concept to the gods and mortals. Gods can go on to live for centuries and centuries and obviously mortals grow old and die. That is the one difference you really come to grips with in this book. How the gods live and what they value as important, it was all very fascinating. I loved all of the mind blowing adventures that Miller throws at us in this book. She somehow manages a delicate balance of patiently telling the story of Circe, and giving us full on heart pulsing action at the same time. I appreciated that it even covered the raw and unfiltered difficulties of motherhood. There were a number of subject matters that Miller covered in this book that I loved reading about.
The 2nd feature I want to cover is the plethora of characters that we are introduced to in this book. Just like Miller’s first book The Song of Achilles, Circe also packs a punch when it comes to the stellar cast of characters that come in and out of Circe’s life in this book. We’re talking epic gods here, fearless and terrifying goddesses, brave and courageous mortals, we literally have an entire book of the most epic and awesome characters that everyone would enjoy. That’s what I admire the most about the characters in this book, is that everyone will have a favorite person that they’re ruling for. Circe, is the one who truly brings this book together. The fact that she was awkward and a bit of an outcast made me love her even more. She had her flaws as we all do, she was an endearing character. Even though she is a goddess, you sort of feel like you can relate to her life, her emotions and even how she grew up and who she becomes. She is what I like to call a legit feminist. Miller’s retelling of Circe was just spot on. I loved one particular scene in the book where Circe is walking on the island and going about her business, and hikes up her skirt & braids her hair, because it’s simply the practical thing to do and no one is going to tell her otherwise. Brilliant.
My 3rd but not least feature that I loved was the writing. Ugh. Immaculate, decadent, & oh so satisfying. Miller is a stellar writer and I knew what I was getting into given that I had absolutely loved and raved about her 1st novel, The Song of Achilles. I knew this would be just as good and it did not disappoint!!
I'm in love with Greek mythology and I’m one of those people who if it involves classic and epic tales, gods & mortals, fates & epic battles, decadent English language, well sign me up! Having read another similar feminist Greek mythology read in the past titled, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, which I gave a rating of 8/10. Miller’s writing is leaps and miles better than Parker’s in my opinion. Circe was a spellbinding read. I don’t even have enough words to describe to you how amazing this book is. You do not have to be a Greek mythology lover at all to read this. It’s an adventure filled, feminist story that everyone will enjoy. If I were to compare the two books that Madeline Miller wrote, I honestly couldn’t choose. A small part of me would maybe go with Circe mostly because it’s a feminist tale, and a little less gory. To be honest, I have enjoyed both books tremendously.
Circe is a story about love, betrayal, magic, rich and eclectic characters, ruthless and majestic gods, heroes, monsters, tragedy & immortal conflict as well as the meaning of life. I truly think that Madeline Miller is one of the best writers I have ever come across. She completely demands for you to sit, pay attention, listen and absorb every single word of her books. I hope Miller will continue to write more on Greek mythology.
Here are some awesome quotes I adored from Circe, by Madeline Miller
“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”
― Madeline Miller, Circe
“I asked her how she did it once, how she understood the world so clearly. She told me that it was a matter of keeping very still and showing no emotions, leaving room for others to reveal themselves.”
― Madeline Miller, Circe
Circe was lush, compelling, harrowing, deliciously slow burning, entertaining and utter perfection. I couldn’t find a single flaw. It will always have a special place in my heart.
Apparently it's also being made into a short series fantasy drama on HBO! Definitely need to watch that soon.
As most of you know, I LOVE music. I love pairing songs with books that I read, it's just become a bit of a habit that I do and also I get to share with you a soundtrack for the books I read. For Circe, this was a hard decision! haha I had SO many songs that made me think of this book, but in the end. I went with a song that reflected Circe and her story in this book, how she came to be her own person and finally became comfortable in her own skin.
My song pick for Circe is, Fighter by Christina Aguilera. What a TUNE! Perfect for this book. I can totally picture Circe stomping around Aiaia singing this with the wind blowing in her face with her lions by her feet. Epic. Listen to the song here.
Genre: Greek Mythology | Fantasy Fiction
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Pages: 393 Pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company