Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller.
Updated: Jan 31
Circe was was my Bookclubs choice of book for October.
The story of Circe is one of the lesser know in the Ancient Greek Mythology. Circe was briefly referred to in Homer’s the Odyssey, but Madeline’s novel put the mysterious figure of Circe into the spotlight. Circe in Greek Mythology was often referred to as the witch of Aiaia.
Madeline Miller’s Circe is as tory of a woman coming into her own and finding her inner strength. One may even say it has feminist undertones.
Circe begins in her fathers, Helio’s court. Helios is the Sun God in Greek Mythology and a Titan. Circe's mother was a nymph (an immensely beautify nymph) however has no power. Circe may be immortal but has no powers, she is immensely ridiculed by her family and those in Helio’s court. From the beginning of the book you are made aware of Circe’s inferior status. Her chance meeting of Prometheus during his punishment is a turning point in her story. She is fascinated by sympathy for humans, kindling her own interest in mankind.
Wishing to keep her love Glaucos (a human) from dying of old age, she performs magic with a magical herb called pharmaka and turn him into a sea god. To Circe’s devastation Glaucos’ new divinity goes to his head and he falls for a Scylla, a beautiful sea nymph. Circe turns her witchcraft on Scylla, turning her into a beast. Circe’s punishment is being banished to the remote island Aiaia.
It is on the island of Aiaia that Circe explores her witchcraft powers and hones them to a point that she could hold off Athena. During her time on Aiaia she becomes a powerful witch, and this is where the legend of the Witch of Aiaia originates. Unwise shipwrecked sailors take advantage of Circe’s hospitality and she turns them into pigs. Odysseus meets Circe on the island and a romance progresses, resulting in a son. Their son sadly is the cause of Odysseus’s death. Setting off a chain of events.
I found the book a good easy read. There were parts of the book that I loved and parts that I thought were not thought through or didn’t add to the story. Having previously read the Odyssey and have a knowledge of Greek Mythology I enjoyed how the different characters were tied together. Those who don’t have a knowledge of Greek Mythology, may have a hard time following the characters (there are lots of names).
The undertones of feminism in the book was a bit heavy handed. I found that Miller tried to empower Circe, but the female empowerment was from a modern perspective. This was a big topic at our book club.
There was a lot of character development for minor and main characters. I enjoyed that all the characters were multi-dimensional. However, the inclusion of Hermes I felt was a bit clumsy. His character felt like a filler role.
Circe is an easy book to read and could easily be read in one sitting or leisurely by the pool whilst on vacation.