Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Greek Mythology, Fantasy
First Publication: 2018
Major Characters: Circe, Odysseus, Penelope (wife of Odysseus), Glaucus, Zeus (God), Athena (Greek goddess), Telemachus, Daedalus, Hermes,
Minor Characters: Helen of Troy, Prometheus, Medea of Colchis, Aeëtes, Boreas, Minos, Scylla, Minotaur, Ariadne (mythology), Agamemnon
Setting Place: Oceanos’ Halls, Aiaia (island), Crete (Greece), Charybdis (Italy)
Theme: Gender dynamics, Mortality vs. Immortality, Fate vs. Free Will, Maturity and Responsibility
Narrator: First person POV (Circe herself narrates the story)
Book Summary: Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.
When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.
“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Breathing life into the ancient world, Madeline Miller weaves an intoxicating tale of gods and heroes, magic and monsters, survival and transformation.
Book Summary: Circe by Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller’s story embellishes on the legend of Circe from Greek mythology. Circe is the daughter of the Titan sun god Helios and an ocean nymph.
Circe is a witch, skilled in potions, herbs and transformational arts. Exiled by her father to a remote island in punishment for her use of sorcery, Circe eventually encounters the mortal Odysseus, who becomes shipwrecked on her island. They become lovers and after Odysseus leaves the island, Circe bears him a son, Telegonus. Telegonus later goes in search of his father, an action that ends up having life altering consequences for Circe.
For those who don’t know, Madeline Miller is 2018 Goodreads Choice Winner follows the story of Circe, the goddess of the island of Aeaea. She shows up in the tale of Odysseus, turning his men into pigs & ultimately allowing them to reside on her island for a year. But what of Circe before she enters the story we know?
There are several striking aspects to Madeline Miller’s gift for retelling lesser known narratives from classic Greek mythology.
“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.”
In Circe by Madeline Miller, author weaves her characters into the situations we’ve all come across a time or two in the canon or through various pop culture references, but her integration is so seamless that it only enhances the original works. It builds up each character in such a believable, effortless way, giving their point of view & prompting readers to reconsider how they may have previously regarded certain events & motivations.
In both of Miller’s novels I’ve read, she has a particular talent for writing her title characters in a flawed but relatable way. More than once I found myself sympathizing with Circe as she navigated the disdainful tangle of gods and goddesses surrounding her. I even found myself feeling as though I would act similarly to, if not worse than Circe did if I were her. When an author is able to naturally create such an affinity between reader & character, especially in the frame of a retelling without compromising original characterization, I’d call that a huge win.
“I would say, some people are like constellations that only touch the earth for a season.”
There are so many solid themes present in the book Circe by Madeline Miller. Breaking away from the expectations of your lineage, taking control of your destiny, parenthood, family, making the best out of the worst, finding your inner peace, loving your body, drawing boundaries. And Every. Single. One of them is expressed exquisitely.
My absolute favorite part of Circe by Madeline Miller, author’s breath-taking writing. This has to be some of the most gorgeously fluid word composition I’ve ever come across. If it weren’t enough to find a unique retelling by a skilled author, Madeline Miller’s every word is like honey. In fact, writing this review makes me feel self conscious because I know I’m not able to use my words to adequately explain just how beautiful the writing in this book is.
I’d highly recommend picking Circe by Madeline Miller, especially if you’re a fan of Greek Mythology. Circe is a spectacularly captivating character, I am incredibly excited to see the next character Madeline Miller will choose to write about!