Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller
Published April 2018 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: my ecopy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power--the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

My Thoughts:
A relatively minor character in Homer's The Odyssey, Circe comes into her own in this story that draws on both Homer's work and Greek mythology. Miller has everything you'd expect in a story about gods and witches - terrifying power, horrifying creatures, impressive magic, and even more impressive temper tantrums. In a book that spans hundreds of years, there's a lot of action, a lot of characters to track, and you'll definitely find yourself reacquainting yourself with Greek mythology. All of the is terrific but it's the more human aspects of the story that really make the book shine.

Circe grows up the unloved, black sheep of her family who is constantly told no husband will ever have her. When she falls in love for the first time, her heart is broken. Her revenge goes terribly awry leaving her with a guilt that will not end. Left on her own, Circe, learns to care for and protect herself and turns into a serious badass. Which is a good thing, because her family is not done making her life difficult, there will be more trouble with men, and she will have to go to the ends of the earth for her child. In the end, it's her humanity that is what is most appealing about her - the heartbreak she suffers, the desire to be someone other than who she is, her love for her son, her sorrow. I seriously loved this character.

Kudos for my daughter-in-law (after almost a year, it still seems strange to say that!) for bringing this one to my attention and to NPR for bringing it to her attention some months ago. This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. And since I'm going to have to buy a copy to pass on to my daughter-in-law, I might just read it again.


  1. I especially loved the female angle to the story.

  2. How nice that you share your 'reading' with your daughter-in-law! Love that. Think yours is the first review I've read of this book. I've wondered about it as I do like mythology. Will probably check it out.

  3. One of your faves?? Wow, I am not sure it's for me but I loved the temper tantrum comment. Is it a big book?

  4. Totally agree that this one is SO good. I loved the mythology aspect of it, but I always love the humanity parts of mythology. Circe is one of the best embodiments of that.