ARC REVIEW: Circe by Madeline Miller (April 2018)

Life is not so simple as a loom. What you weave, you cannot unravel with a tug.

My synopsis: Circe, daughter of Perse and Helios, was born “less than pleasing” and thus was neglected by her mother, father, and siblings. In her desire to love and be loved, she discovered a hidden talent: witchcraft. Threatened by her power – for Helios was a proud god, and Zeus, even more so – Circe was banished to the island of Aiaia. Isolated from everyone, she cultivated her art, cursed insolent mortals, raised her child, and stood against the gods. 

To be published in April 10, 2018 

e-ARC provided by Little, Brown & Company through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review 

Genre: Literary, Fantasy, Mythology, Historical Fiction

Themes: gods, goddesses, motherhood, witchcraft, strong female protagonist, mythology, Olympians, Titans, demigods, divine punishment, self-discovery, compassion, mortality, immortality

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Madeline Miller proves once again that she is a master weaver of words – she gives us Circe – a tale of a fierce woman, a daughter and a sister spurned, a goddess who is incredibly human, a formidable witch, a mother. It is a tale of self-discovery, of love lost, of motherhood, and of the power of love. The underlying sensuality of Miller’s prose is deeply captivating, and ultimately, it left me bewitched, charmed, and enchanted – as if Circe herself has put a spell on me.

I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open.

Another thing I really appreciated were Miller’s apt characterizations: even with just one or two appearances within the text, told only in Circe’s point of view, in a couple of sentences here and there, the characters are complete. It is admirable and very difficult to achieve; I’ve read books where the author isn’t able to present a coherent or sound main character within the span of the entire work, let alone its secondary characters. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

  • Helios

But he was a harp with only one string, and the note it played was himself.

  • Daedalus

I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.

  • Odysseus

I was not careful. I was reckless, headlong. He was another knife, I could feel it. A different sort, but a knife still. I did not care. I thought: give me the blade. Some things are worth spilling blood for.

  • Telemachus

There was some sort of innocence to him, I thought. I do not mean this as the poets mean it: a virtue to be broken by the story’s end, or else upheld at greatest cost. Nor do I mean that he was foolish or guileless. I mean that he was made only of himself, without the dregs that clog the rest of us. He thought and felt and acted, and all these things made a straight line. No wonder his father had been so baffled by him. He would have been always looking for the hidden meaning, the knife in the dark. But Telemachus carried his blade in the open.

  • Telegonus

I loved his certainty, his world that was an easy place of right action divided sharply from wrong, of mistake and consequence, of monsters defeated. It was no world I knew, but I would live in it as long as he would let me.

There were plenty of themes represented, but most of all, I found that I was drawn most to Circe’s tale of motherhood. This is surprising to me, because I’m not a mother myself, but I think that Miller paints such an accurate picture of being a mother – the hardships, the sacrifices, the heartbreak, the unfathomable love. I think what made it so fascinating is that it isn’t expected at all in a story about gods and goddesses. Often, it’s about a story of a god or a goddess and their numerous children.

When he was a child I used to make lists of all the things I would do to keep him safe. It was not much of a game, because the answer was always the same. Anything.

Ultimately, what made Miller’s version of Circe so interesting, is that instead of exploring the goddess side of Circe, Miller presented a very human account of Circe’s tale: even in her immortality and formidable power, Circe is compassionate, she craved companionship, and she admitted her weaknesses.

Circe is for lovers of mythology, of strong female protagonists, and simply, it is for lovers of beautiful prose. If you liked The Song of Achilles, I can’t imagine you not liking Circe – I really liked The Song of Achilles, but I loved Circe! 

It comes out a couple of days from now, so I highly recommend you grab a copy, then!

Thank you for reading!

***Thank you Little, Brown & Company for my review copy!

BONUS: Map from Edelweiss+


If you liked Circe:

The Song of Achilles: A Novel

Have you read The Song of Achilles? 

Are you planning to read Circe? 

What are some of your favorite mythology-inspired reads?

Sincerely Peachy (1)

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