Before picking up the book, Circe was very similar to a BuzzFeed article for me. It showed up everywhere. It was on all of my feeds. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads… Circe was everywhere! Eventually, I gave in and began reading Circe.
Circe is a goddess. Born to Helios, the sun god and his wife Perse. As the eldest of the children, she is left to her own devices while her sister, Pasiphaë and brother, Perses, torment her. Her youngest brother, Aeetes, is her companion and she finds solace in him. Yet Circe is devastated when he moves on. A chance meeting with a mortal, Glaucos, Circe falls in love and using magic turns him into a demigod. Heartbreak follows when he chooses another over Circe. She retaliates by turning his intended into a six-headed monster. Eventually, all the guilt bubbles out and she confesses to her father, in front of everyone. It is only then that Helios realises that all his children from Perse are capable of magic and witchcraft.
Zeus made aware of this situation by Helios exiles Circe while letting her brothers and sister get away, even though they possess similar powers. Circe is left alone on the island of Aeaea and there she spends her time. As centuries pass, Circe lives on the island and learns to harness the power within herself. Learning about all things living, mixing up potions that turn men into pigs and make the island look hostile to seafarers. The book, Circe, tells us her fascinating tale of magic, heartbreak, moving on and finally standing up for herself.
There are many tales of mythology that perhaps have already dealt with Circe in some capacity, Homers Odyssey being one. We’ve seen Circe depicted in different shades as well. But Madeline Miller‘s Circe is different. She is not just a goddess or a witch. She is not even simply a nymph. She is one of us. A daughter, a woman having to go through life bearing the consequences of someone else’s whimsy, cleaning up someone else’s mess. Circe, the nymph in Miller‘s book becomes a real living character, going through situations in her life and still striving to survive.
While the book may be one of the better tellings, for the general reader, it also becomes a journal giving insight into the workings of mortals and immortals alike. Where Helios could not see anything beyond his own brilliance, Circe sees it all. The shallowness, the penchant for rabble-rousing and the constant messing around in the lives of mortals. She also sees the frailty of human life, a sort of delightful difference from the mortality that binds her. Circe also sees the darkness clouding the beauty. Circe sees a lot and through her, we are given an insight into the workings of the mortal and immortal realm. And they are not very different from each other.
While the tidbits about the Minotaur and Icarus, Hermes and Odysseus etc were delightful, I loved best that Madeline Miller could make a goddess a mere mortal woman and show us that we, mortal women, go through the same situations in life. Maybe we do not have lions prancing about us and are incapable of mixing up a portion to turn men into pigs, but let’s confess there are times when we have thought about the latter.
All in all, a great book! Definitely, recommend.
PS – I know I haven’t aligned the featured image properly, the text is a bit off. 😐 I blame the summer!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars