Circe by Madeline Miller (Read by Perdita Weeks)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Historical fiction, Mythology
Published: 10th April 2018 by Little, Brown and Company US, 19th April 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing UK.
Mythology has captured the imagination of children and adults alike, forming the earliest stories ever told in the history of humankind. Of those known all over the world, Greek mythology is probably one of the most popular and well-known. But as fascinating as mythology can be though, it is often told in an omniscient and detached manner. Even great tragedies may not necessarily move us that much when events and characters were often related in a matter-of-fact, or even textbook-style, approach.
“I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open.”
I love Greek mythology and have read a few simplified versions of the more well-known old Greek classics. But nothing ever came close to my experience of reading Circe by Madeline Miller. This beautifully-written retelling of the story of the witch of Aiaia was something truly special. Miller imparted much emotional depth into the story of Circe; emotions which were largely absent in most mythological writings.
“I did not have a thousand wiles, and I was no fixed star, yet for the first time I felt something in that space. A hope, a living breath, that might yet grow between.”
Circe is a wonderfully crafted first person narrative that wove a myriad Greek myths into a captivating story of love, loss and regrets. Written like a memoir in her own voice, the most ‘mortal-like’ of Helios’ divine children, was humanized through relatable and in-depth insights into Circe’s thoughts and emotions. The character work of Circe was utterly and beguilingly outstanding. As a female, it resonated with me even more with the kind of struggles she had to face and overcome. While this novel could be considered as feminist fiction to a certain degree, I believe that everyone can enjoy a story that humanizes a mythological figure in such a compelling manner.
“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.”
To cap it all off, the memoir-like narrative was delivered in one of the most beautifully written prose I’ve ever read. It’s exquisitely written not just from having words put together wonderfully, but because the way it speaks straight to your heart and soul. The writing was evocative in everything it described, whether it’s an emotion, or the sound and scent of the island of Aiaia, or even the aura of the men Circe loved.
“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.”
I would also like to note that the audio narration by Perdita Weeks was exceptional. Her flow and enunciation were so perfect that combined with the gorgeous prose, I felt that was being serenaded with the tale of Circe. The brilliance and beauty of the writing in Circe needed to be savoured, and I strongly believe that the audiobook was the perfect medium to do so.
Circe has become one of those books which I look forward to rereading, time and again. I’ve not read The Song of Achilles, but now I’m very keen to pick up Miller’s debut as I cannot get enough of her exquisite writing. I really hope that we’ll see more of such mythological retellings from this gifted writer. Highly, highly recommended.