Circe by Madeline Miller
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Historical fiction, Mythology, Retelling
Pages: 433 pages (US Kindle edition)
Published: 19th April 2018 by Bloomsbury (UK) & 10th April 2018 by Little, Brown and Company (US)
Madeline Miller is now on my must-read author list. I can’t wait for her next work already.
I guess I can officially say with no reservation that I’m a fan of Madeline Miller’s books now. Many readers have raved about her books for almost a decade now, compared to them, I definitely can be considered a new fan of Madeline Miller. I finished reading The Song of Achilles almost two months ago, and despite my previous hesitancy—I talked about why in my review of the book—to read that book, it blew me away how good it was. Right upon finishing it, I knew I had to give Circe a read as well, and although I slightly loved The Song of Achilles more, I cannot deny that Circe is another incredible book by Madeline Miller.
“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”
When I was starting The Song of Achilles, I was afraid that my knowledge of Achilles and the Trojan War would diminish my experience on Miller’s take on the story. As it turns out, knowing about Achilles and how his story ended actually deepened my enjoyment of reading that book. When I was going to start Circe, it was the other way around; I knew about Odysseus and his journey, but I admittedly remembered very little about Circe’s tale. In fact, what I remembered about Circe was only that Odysseus met her, and she also turned Odysseus’ men into pigs, that’s it. I was afraid that my lack of knowledge about Circe would actually decrease my enjoyment; there was no need for any worry, after all. Circe is beautiful, empowering, and well-written.
“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”
Circe’s characterization is simply wonderful. It was easy for me to find myself invested in her story, and the more I read about Miller’s take on her character, the more I grew to care about her. She’s a kind-hearted and innocent individual who has to learn things the hard way but never let the difficulties, betrayals, and loneliness she faced throughout her life changed her core virtues. Her character’s development was gradually developed. This is also what made Circe such a compelling character to read; she’s powerful, and I’m speaking this not just in terms of her literal power as a witch, but it’s her perseverance, defiance, and strong mentality that I found to be inspiring. The cruel events that have happened to Circe could’ve easily led her to think that all male is evil, but this didn’t happen to her; Circe judged people, regardless of their genders and affiliations, equally through their actions. Good people receive kindness, bad people deserve retribution.
“You have always been the worst of my children,” he said. “Be sure to not dishonor me.”
“I have a better idea. I will do as I please, and when you count your children, leave me out.”
Greek mythology—along with Norse and Japanese mythologies—are some of my favorite myths to read about. I loved reading Miller’s Greek retellings. After reading The Song of Achilles, it somehow felt comfortable to me to be reading another standalone story by Miller within these eras. It was great to witness Scylla and its origin; Prometheus and his torture; Daedalus and Icarus; Odysseus’ and his family; the Greek gods behaving as childish as possible, and many more. These, and heroic actions, are all the kinds of things that made Greek mythologies fascinating to read, and Miller continues to nail the executions. The part with the Trygon’s Tail was something that I haven’t heard of; this could be Miller’s own rendition on this story section, and it fits the narrative she tells.
“You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.”
Both The Song Achilles and Circe has proved that Madeline Miller is a blessing for literature and Greek mythologies. Feel free to consider me a fan of her books now, I heard that her next novel will be about Pandora, and I’m super excited for it. Honestly speaking, though, I loved reading Miller’s beautiful prose so much that I don’t think I’d mind if she decides to retell everything in Greek mythologies with her creativity and writing.
“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”
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