Published April 10, 2018, by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Page Count: 400 pages
… in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth.
Back in high school – which really doesn’t seem so long ago to me now – I had an excellent teacher named Ms. Willoughby. I may have been in the minority, but I LOVED Ms. Willoughby. She introduced us to the classics, to hidden gems, and to books that ultimately became some of my favorites.
But Ms. Willoughby’s face would light up and she would gain a new level of animation when she talked about mythology! Greek, Roman, African, or Asian – she loved to teach us about gods, demigods, monsters, and the privileged (or not-so) mortals that interacted with them.
Gosh, I wish I had paid more attention.
Too late for all the things I should have known. I had made so many mistakes that I could not find my way back through their tangle to the first one.
I remembered that Circe is a goddess, but here is what I just relearned: Circe is a Titan, but is still considered to be a lesser god. Her dad is Helios, the Titan god of the sun, and her mom is a nymph, Perse, a daughter of Oceanos, also a Titan.
Circe grows up in the earthen halls of her father and grandfather, but she’s an outcast. Her brothers and sister are favored in her parents’ eyes and she is eventually exiled to an island, Aiaia, to live out her immortality alone as a witch.
Only, she doesn’t exactly end up entirely alone.
You know by now that I hate spoilers, so I’ll refrain from saying too much; however, since Madeline Miller’s book is more of a retelling, I couldn’t actually give too much away especially if you’re already familiar with Circe, Greek mythology, or even Homer’s The Odyssey.
What was I truly? In the end, I could not bear to know.
I have a confession to make here: I was drawn in. I had cover art shock. I mean it, this book cover is GORGEOUS. Seriously, a standing slow-clap ovation to Will Staehle, the jacket designer. Do you do that – get drawn in by the cover and the hype surrounding a new release? Well, I have succumbed to those two enchantments more often in the past two years than any other time in my life. Sometimes it has served me well (Children of Blood and Bone), but other times not so much (The Rules of Magic and The Hazel Wood).
Circe’s cover is admittedly eye-catching, but when you remove the jacket (which I usually do when reading hardcover books), the book cover itself is really plain. And that’s what I felt about this story.
Circe is truly an underdog – a lesser god, ostracized from her family, exiled to a remote island, and hunted by powerful and dangerous deities. You can’t get much more underdog than that. And I usually root for the underdog! But for some reason, I never felt connected to her. Whenever I wanted her to stand up for herself, she submitted; and when I felt it would be better for her to take a step back, she charged forward. Maybe that’s the difference between gods and mortals – besides the immortality part.
The Fates were laughing at me… It was their favorite bitter joke: those who fight against prophecy only draw it more tightly around their throats.
Miller does do a great job of marching both mortals and gods through Circe’s life so that we can see her interactions with well-remembered favorites: Hermes, the trickster son of Zeus who acted as Circe’s social media consultant; Athena, the goddess of war and Zeus’ favorite; Daedalus, the mortal that first captured Circe’s heart; and Odysseus, the mortal prince of Ithaca who ultimately changed Circe’s immortal life in several very significant ways.
It was an entertaining read but it wasn’t a favorite. Some parts of the events depicted felt monotonous while some of the more interesting events were covered too quickly and then left behind. I saw Circe as sad and tragic for 88.8% of the book, and that’s a tough kind of MC to get behind. However, I don’t regret buying it, if for no other reason than it looks stunning on my bookshelf!
About the Author
Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She has taught and tutored Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students for more than fifteen years.
She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms.
The Song of Achilles, her first novel, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times Bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty-five languages including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic, and Greek. Madeline was also shortlisted for the 2012 Stonewall Writer of the Year, and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Lapham’s Quarterly and NPR.org. Her second novel, Circe, was an instant number 1 New York Times bestseller. She currently lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Bio from MadelineMiller.com)