Circe by Madeline Miller is a marvellous read. When I saw this book about Circe from the Odyssey, I couldn’t resist. I was one of those kids that grew up reading mythology. Greek mythology was a particular favourite, in part because my name appears in one of those myths and in part because I just found them fascinating.
Miller has a gift for storytelling and is a masterful writer. In the Odyssey, Homer writes Circe as a beautiful evil witch that transforms Odysseus’ men into swine and then she enthralls Odysseus so that he stays with her until his men beg him to continue their journey home. Miller’s approach is quite different. When Circe is born, nothing much is expected from her; she is not powerful like her father, the Titan sun god Helios, nor is she dazzlingly beautiful like her mother, an Oceanic nymph. She is told her voice is thin and unpleasant to hear. She grows up mostly ignored by everyone around her, and at times she is noticed, she is bullied and belittled even by those closest to her. When she discovers her powers and dares to question the gods, she is exiled to a small island as punishment.
It is on this island that Circe gets the chance to grow and to eventually become herself. Visitors came and go, they influence Circe and Circe influences the world outside the island through them. During this exile she experiences the good, the bad and the ugly of mortals, develops her powers, and becomes a mother. Being a mother doesn’t come easy for Circe—nothing ever has—, but a loving mother she does become. To protect her child she will do the unthinkable and confront one of the most powerful Olympian gods.
This book is a beautifully written character study, perfect for those that enjoy character development over action packed plots. Miller brings characters from myth to life in all their greatness and pettiness. She expertly captures the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go until the last line of the last page. I can’t recommend this book enough as a must read.