A beautifully written retelling of Circe’s story.
GR Synopsis: 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.
CW/TW: Incest/Graphic Violence/Rape/Neglect/Gore/Adultery/Poison/Coercion
Ok so I know 3 stars is a unpopular opinion for this book but, firstly I did not think the book was bad – 3 stars for me is an average read, and secondly I think I just expected more from it.
Circe, by Madeline Miller is, undoubtedly, a beautifully written book – and I adore whimsical, metaphorical and idyllic prose. In fact the writing was so mesmerising that it kept me hooked right up until the end. Miller is an incredible writer and she definitely knows how to weave a story, her descriptions are rich and detailed and her characters and setting really come alive because of this. I also really loved the unique perspective. This story spans hundreds to thousands of years which is brilliant because Greek myth is full of amazing stories, adventures and conflicts, Circe’s story being an incredibly interesting one in itself but we also get to see other stories from her perspective from Prometheus’ punishment to The Minotaur.
Circe’s perspective is particularly interesting due to her status, though she is the daughter of Helios she is also an untalented nymph and not a particularly beautiful one at that. This leads to her being consistently oppressed, neglected, underestimated and ignored so she is a significant observer – which works perfectly with the story and the prose.
So, as you can probably tell, my favourite thing about this book was the prose and narration -my personal favourite events in this for me was seeing Prometheus’ character and Scylla’s story. While I found Circe’s perspective to be intriguing, partiularly when she was an active part of the stories, I did find it to be slightly too limiting at times, for example we see the start of The Minotaur’s story but miss all other event’s that transpire to end it – this was a little bit of a let down because we miss some of the best parts of the stories due to Circe’s exile and isolation.
The story as a whole is interesting as we watch Circe grow in isolation and become stronger and I actually found the witchcraft to be quite interesting with the herbs, precision and willpower but in the scheme of the book I was ultimately a little disappointed – I expected a lot more magic and rebellion in regards to the witchcraft, the closest I got to what I expected happened relatively late in the story.
Moreover, Circe’s character also gave me mixed feelings. Circe is interesting, flawed and very powerful when she is being determined, headstrong and rebellious she is fantastic. However, she spends significant portions of the story doing nothing, while parts of her time on the island were intriguing I found that it was too much – Circe seems to spend the majority of her time taming the animals and sleeping with people and sometime a minor God – while this does serve a purpose and highlights Circe’s own agency it grows a little repetitive and unnecessary.
Circe is definitely strong and independent and I can see why this novel is hailed as feminist. Circe goes through a lot and comes out of it stronger and more determined taking agency over herself and her home. But, the other female characters do take away from this a little with their consistent cruelty (I do give some leeway for the Gods/Goddesses are known for their conflicts) but I did enjoy some of the conflicts throughout the story, the flawed characters from mortal to God were interesting to read about.
Overall, Circe was a beautiful and compelling read but it definitely gave me some mixed feelings! Its prose and descripctions are rich, detailed and lyrical, the story is intriguing and the characters are complex, but as a whole I expected more from some elements.
This book will certainly appeal to lovers of lyrical writing and character focused stories.