Circe – Madeline Miller

Since I started reading more and more paper books I almost stopped buying books on Amazon. It’s been ages since I bought any there. Instead, I had my 12 bookshops for 12 months project last year, that stocked my shelves to a point that I probably won’t clear the backlog this year. Also as I travel I make it a point to bring at least one book from every place I visit. Circe, however, is an exception, one of the two books I got on Amazon this year.

The cover is so beautiful that it didn’t linger long on my shelves. I think I just fall easily for shiny things. Added to that is, of course, my love of the Greek mythology in particular, and all mythologies in general. How happy I was reading this book is difficult to tell, but I’ll still try.

It’s been a while since a book so thoroughly engaged me, pulled me in and kept me in its world. Actually, I think the last book that managed to do that was the Milkman back in May. I missed that feeling of being immersed in another world. It was difficult lately mostly because of stress and work, I felt very distracted and could not find my usual refuge in reading. Circe brought me back on track.

As the title suggests it is the story of Circe, the daughter of Helios, the witch that turned men into pigs. She is a minor actor in the entire Greek mythology, but Miller gives her a voice. And a resounding one at that. Circe tells us her story chronologically, starting with the cold and lonely childhood. She was the ugly child, unloved by her parents, who have seen her as a disappointment, compared to her beautiful and powerful siblings. We hear when she met Prometheus, who challenged her perceptions for the first time. Her love of Glaucus that allowed her to discover her gift, and her jealousy of Scylla, that led her to create one of the most famous monsters of all time.

We learn about her siblings and other gods. Her exile, the time she took to perfect her craft. The loves of her life: Dedalus, Hermes, Odysseus. Circe’s life is endless, and she is well aware of it, it spans centuries, yet she does not age, which does not mean she’s not growing, we see her evolving as a character. Each tragedy leaving a scar, for even if her body is immortal and heals itself, her soul does get damaged. Circe’s life takes us through a multitude of emotions, love, loss, grief, hope, loneliness, jealousy, anger, power and helplessness. She does good and evil and both are done to her. In her godliness, she is very human, she even goes through post-natal depression.

It is a loud, distinct and passionate voice. This is exactly the way mythology should always be told. For the Greek gods are not perfect, they are like us only more. It is an exquisite book and I am truly sorry I finished it. Now I’m off to buy the Song of Achilles.

This is book #7 of my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746books.
See my list as it grows here.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 


6 thoughts on “Circe – Madeline Miller

  1. I was discussing this only yesterday with one of my readers groups. Like you, I think it is a remarkable piece of work which not only illuminates the myth but also speaks about the way in which women have been treated through the ages. I hope you enjoy The Song of Achilles. It is a less complicated story than Circe but still an excellent read.

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