I’ve said often on the blog that I’m not always one to jump in on new releases or contemporary fiction trends. I usually prefer to wait until a book’s been around for a while before I decide if I want to read it. But when Circe by Madeline Miller debuted in April, the cover alone caught my fancy. When I found out that it was a recreation of the story of Circe from Greek Mythology, my interest was piqued again. It also just so happens that the novel debuted around my birthday, so I felt justified in buying it for myself as a birthday present. And I’m so glad I did!
If it’s been a while since you studied any mythology, don’t worry–it had been for me, too! The only thing I really knew about Circe was that she’s the enchantress mentioned in The Odyssey–the one who turns Odysseus’ men into pigs. But as it turns out, Miller breathes life into this familiar story while also explaining Circe’s background, her life in exile, and her adventures as an immortal figure. This book has what I call a “slow burn” feel, because Circe is immortal; she lives outside of time, so the book moves at a dreamy pace. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t exciting bits of action, too. When Circe helps her sister give birth to the Minotaur I was definitely cringing a little!
The other thing I loved about this novel was how Circe grows as a character over the course of the book. Because it does move slowly at times, the entire focus of the book is on Circe’s journey from a young, uncertain girl to a powerful enchantress who knows exactly what she brings to the table. This is a unique take on a mythological story. So often it seems like the figures in those tales burst onto the scene fully aware of their gifts, powers, and strengths. Which isn’t surprising, considering that the original audiences for those myths also would have already known each god or goddesses’ supposed powers. It’s cool to watch as Circe grows from a girl to a woman in a world full of overwhelmingly powerful individuals. I think that’s what made this story feel so fresh and original.
I’d recommend this novel for anyone who is interested in mythology or interested in learning more about mythology in a low pressure way. This book makes me think of the Percy Jackson young adult series–a cool way of updating and bringing old stories and legends into the modern world. Circe, for all her ancient roots in tall tales and epics, feels very much like a modern woman.
Have you read Circe? If so, what did you think? I’d love to hear!