This book left me breathless with admiration. It has a kickass protagonist. While it reads more like a women’s fiction novel than a historical fiction novel, it was a time period that I remembered very little about from school. I didn’t take any mythology classes in college, so high school is really the last time I remember reading about mythology in any capacity.
Plot Summary: Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun. She is born different from those in her family – she is not powerful like her father, nor beautiful like her mother. Circe soon turns to mortals for companionship, believing herself more similar to mortals than the gods she descends from. Circe learns she has the propensity for witchcraft, after she turns an enemy into one of the most storied monsters in mythology. Zeus is threatened by this, and he banishes Circe to an island for all eternity. Her family does not stand up for her, because Circe has never fit in with her parents or her siblings.
Once on her private island, Circe spends days and nights learning and strengthening her abilities. She tames wild beasts and mixes potions to save herself from threatening mortals, who see an easy target in a woman living alone on a deserted island. Almost from the very beginning, Circe finds her path crossing with many of the most notable gods and creatures in mythology: Daedalus and Icarus, Medea, Odysseus, and many others. All of Circe’s actions lead her to the fateful end, where she is pitted against one of the strongest Olympians, who is enraged when Circe does not grant her the one thing she wants most.
My Review: Having not read about mythology since high school, I was hesitant to pick up this book because I thought I would be lost in the web of characters. Right from the very beginning, the author introduced Circe and the other characters in such a way that you recognized the important gods and creatures, and it felt like the secondary characters blended in seamlessly in the world she had written. The book never felt long or drawn out; the story of Circe kept progressing and moving towards a conclusion. This was interesting because as a god, Circe could live forever. Circe’s time on the island spanned centuries, but it read like only mere days had passed from one visitor or event to the next.
I found that I could not put the book down because I needed to know what happened. I’m not sure if I would feel the same way had I been more knowledgeable about mythology and known everyone’s stories. I believe I still would be enraptured by the story of Circe herself. Madeline Miller wrote an amazing character, one you wanted to root for throughout the entire story.
Circe – though she is a capable witch who has proven herself time and again against powerful foes – is filled with flaws and scars. She turned an enemy into a powerful monster – how many times have we as humans probably dreamt of turning our enemies into monsters? Circe is relatable and has been through so much as a woman. She has spent her entire life wanting to be accepted by her family, and then she comes to terms with her circumstances and accepts that she can choose who she surrounds herself with.
Only that: we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive
Goodreads stars: 5/5 (AKA I hope you’re already on your way to your local library/Barnes & Noble/used bookstore/Amazon.com account to rent/reserve/purchase it!)