by Madeline Miller
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Pub Date 10 Apr 2018 | Archive Date 11 Mar 2021
"An epic spanning thousands of years that's also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner." — Ann Patchett
"This is as close as you will ever come to entering the world of mythology as a participant. — Margaret George
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.
"Madeline Miller, master storyteller, conjures Circe glowing and aliv—and makes the Gods, nymphs and heroes of ancient Greece walk forth in all their armored splendor. Richly detailed and written with such breathtaking command of story, you will be held enchanted. A breathtaking novel." —Helen Simonson, author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
"With sumptuous writing and descriptive imagery you'll see these gods and men and every being in between as you've never imagined them before." —Esquire
"Circe is the utterly captivating, exquisitely written, story of an ordinary, and extraordinary, woman's life" —Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
"Magic, adventure, and mythology—this one's got it all." —Bustle
"Written with power and grace, this enchanting, startling, gripping story casts a spell as strong and magical as any created by the sorceress Circe." —Mary Doria Russell, author of Epitaph
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From birth, Circe is immediately deemed insignificant and strange. She is naive where the other gods are cynical; she strives for goodness when they crave only power. It is because of these differences that when the Olympians discover her and her siblings' magic, she alone is punished with banishment. Throughout her exile, though, she meets those who will become legend and witnesses the events that will become the stuff of myth. Miller expertly weaves a tale in which the Greek tragedies not only come alive, but are finally told through a woman's eyes.
Another wonderful book from Madeline Miller! Can she just retell ALL the Greek myths? I loved how "Circe" breathed new life into the well-known story by putting Circe front and center. You definitely get a different perspective on the various characters in The Odyssey by seeing the events through Circe's eyes rather than Odysseus'. Miller has such a wonderful writing style; I'll read anything she writes.
After reading Madeline Miller’s new novel Circe, I can undeniably conclude that nothing Miller writes can disappoint me! Circe is Miller’s first full-length novel since The Song of Achilles, and I will be rating it five out of five stars.
Here’s a brief summary of Circe: the title character is a Titan, one of the primordial deities of the Greek mythological canon, and daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, a nymph. One would think, by hearing these lofty titles ascribed to Circe, that she would command a certain level of respect. This is not at all the case. Circe is ugly, her voice is shrill and grating, and above all, she has no godly power. Circe’s father cannot even pay any deity to marry her, and therefore she is of virtually no use to her family. She is a pariah amongst the gods even before she is exiled for practicing a terrible transformative magic on two individuals: in particular, she transforms a beautiful nymph named Scylla into a terrible, six-headed sea monster, and a mortal man named Glaucos into an arrogant sea god after falling in love with him and desiring to make him immortal. The island to which Circe is exiled, Aiaia, is one full of wild beasts for her to tame and plants which she can use for her magic, but can Circe truly harness her magic without the prying eyes of the gods restricting her even more?
Before reading this story, I had genuinely forgotten, even though I’m a Classicist and I study Greek mythology pretty frequently, how tragic the story of Circe is. Madeline Miller really channels what I think are Circe’s inner emotions and turmoil throughout the rejections of her peers and her loneliness during her upbringing, as well as her rage and power as a witch later in her life. I felt Circe’s anguish, isolation, love for Glaucon and Odysseus and her son Telegonus, and above all, her frustration at the fact that the gods keep trying to keep Circe’s power and ambition just out of her reach. As much as I am such a fan of the goddess Athena in Greek mythology, this story let me see the other side of her wrath. Athena almost took Circe’s son away from her, and, to my shock, I was not siding with Athena in the conflict between these two deities!
As much as Madeline Miller’s writing style was incredibly evocative, I also found that technically, the story was also very well organized. I enjoyed the fact that the pacing of the story was just the way it should have been – the part of Circe’s life that readers know best, her meeting with Odysseus on Aiaia, was positioned about halfway through the story. This gave Miller ample time to explore Circe’s origins as well as the birth of Telegonus and their life on Aiaia with Penelope and Telemachus. The story was also very well-researched, and as a Classicist I certainly appreciated the occasional injection of ancient Greek words and references to other stories and conflicts in Greek mythology!
Miller could not have chosen a better subject for her second book than Circe. Not only does her story intertwine with those of many other famous figures in the Greek canon, but there is much about her that the average reader, and even, dare I say, the average Classicist, does not readily know. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Greek mythology, any Classicist looking for a fun read, and, of course, any fans of Madeline Miller and The Song of Achilles.
Miller scores another winner with this beautifully written book. In her hands Circe comes alive, bringing to the reader not just insights into Circe, with whom many readers will not have been very familiar, but into the rest of us “mere mortals.” Narrated by Circe, the story focuses on overcoming imperfection and the actions of others by discovering oneself. Miller brings life to characters many of us know in a two-dimensional sense and makes us care about them much more than expected. This is a beautiful book that will touch its readers deeply.
Beautiful. Not that anyone is surprised, but Madeline Miller's writing is stunning. Even though Circe is not the sweeping love story that Song of Achilles is, I found myself pondering motherhood and mortality and feminism instead, and her prose is, always, the perfect balance between classical and modern.
5 out of 5 stars - and if I could give it more - I would.
Circe by Madeline Miller is an utter masterpiece. It is a story of womanhood, family, love and self-discovery. It is written with precision - no word wasted, no story left open.
Circe tells a story of a nymph, a daughter of Helios and Perse (an Oceanid nymph). After being born, she is scorned by her family and court because she is not beautiful and has no magical abilities. After a lifetime of mental abuse, Circe risk transforming a mortal into a god so that she can be happy with him. Alas, he falls in love with another, and Circe, in her jealousy, transforms her into the six headed monster Scyla. For this - she is exiled to the island Aiaia, after her brother tells her that what she can do is witchery. Here, Circe perfects her skills and grows to be strong.
The fact that Miller made every single page interesting and deep is just incredible. Circe is not just a retelling of a Greek mythology, but it is a tale of a woman’s place in the world. The dichotomy of male and female, their place in the world, their expected behavior and even their dreams is stark here. I would go so far as to call this a feministic novel - with sexism all around Circe - she never gives up, never stops fighting and never looses her ‘humanity.’ Miller also makes a clear distinction of what it is to be mortal and immortal and what it is to be loved by a god and a human. I will warn readers about one thing - Miller stays true to the Greek Mythology and rape is prevalent in the book.
I cannot in all honesty describe just how much I adored this book. I could spend a month writing the review and I will not do the book justice. Read it - you will not regret it. I will recommend this book to anyone who loves Greek mythology, any college student and any historical fiction lover. Miller is truly a master of re-telling Greek tragedies and I will wait eagerly for her next book.
It has taken me a few days to mull over exactly how I feel about Miller's Circe. The book is a beautiful, well-written, reimagined tale of the witch briefly referenced in Greek mythology. I struggled to determine just how much I enjoyed it based on the fact that Miller took a fierce "deity" and made her more human (?). I had to think about if I was okay with that--turns out that when looking at the character Miller has created, Circe becomes not only more human (and more relatable) but also still fiercely able to protect herself once she stops being so naive. Miller's ability to bring to life the mythological characters is a wonder; each twist in the novel kept me surprised and wanting more. I truly admire what Miller is able to do when she sets "pen to paper". I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a good story-full of a plethora of themes and characters, and anyone that enjoys mythology. Truly 4 1/2 stars-Best Fiction I have read this year so far!
<i>*Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley, for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*</i>
When I was approved for Circe by Madeline Miller I was overjoyed. The Song of Achilles has become one of my favorite books of all time so, I had to see what else Miss Miller had up her sleeve. Let me tell you I was not disappointed in the slightest. Everything that I loved about TSOA was just as prominent here but different. I didn't feel like I was reading a carbon copy but it was just as special. I will go into greater detail but her writing, world-building, characters, romance, plot, etc. were all done so meticulously. Nothing felt like a filler or just thrown into the book for haha's sake. That is one of my favorite things about this author. Every detail is important and plays a bigger role later. I loved how unlike in TSOA we got to see more of the Greek gods in this one since they play a bigger role in Circe's life then they did Patroclus and Achilles. Also, I just love that we got an Odessy retelling from Circe's point of view. She was always a character I admired and felt was really miss understood so seeing how things played out from her ye you can really connect and sympathize with her. She is an extremely likable character with relatable personality traits like jealousy, sadness, loneliness, anger, happiness, flaws, etc. But, she is also likable because she is not like everyday people since she is Titan/god/witch with immense power and all those human-like traits but, the difference is she's not insufferable like a lot of the other gods can be. Greek mythology is one of my favorite things in the world and Rick Riordan is my favorite re-teller when it comes to bringing a youthfulness to the stories but, Madeline Miller is my favorite when it comes to bringing the raw aspects of the stories to life through an unlikely point of view that most people won't touch (i.e Patroclus and Circe; they were not the main people in Achille's story or the Odessy but Miller used these underdogs to tell these epic tales.)
"The thought of this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it."
Everything in the story is not 100% accurate but that is what I love about this book. It shows the time and research put into the book enough that she can write something accurate enough to be real and fabricated enough to make it twisted tale. Seeing Circe's life from young to being a powerful witch on her island. I love how the author gave us the timeline of her life like in TSOA but again she didn't make it drag she gave us every important detail no more and no less. The pace was really good and for a story that is so wonderfully crafted and not YA, it was super easy and fast to read.
"You can teach a viper to eat from your hands, but you cannot take away how much it likes to bite."
Madeline Miller's writing never ceases to amaze me. She doesn't use a lot of dialogue yet I am always hooked and grasping onto every word that she put down. The world's she builds on paper just come to life before my eyes and I drink them in. She is a magician and weaver of words. She crafted such a beautiful tale you would hardly believe this is her second novel.
She was gone. But I said it anyway, to that great empty room and my son's dreaming ears: "You do not know what I can do."
I really enjoyed the cast of characters and just like with her plot Miller does not write characters that are unimportant. Everyone is important in the life of Circe even minor characters. My favorites were Circe and her son Telegonus. Circe had such growth in her life and it was beautiful to see it unfold. She was a timid girl and let people walk all over her. Then she became this powerful witch even besting the likes of Athena. Telegonus was such a cute character and just a boy who wasn't used to the world and its harshness but he learned quickly. I loved her sister Pasiphaë even though she was a terrible person I liked how she challenged Circe, I loved Daedalus, Odysseus, Hermes, Penelope, and Telemachus. Her father Helios, Zeus, her mother Perse, Glaucus, her brother Perses, and her other brother Aeetes can all choke, to be honest.
"Tell me," I said, "how do you know that your father is not right about my poisons?..."
"I do not."
"Yet you dare to stay?"
"I dare anything," he said.
And that is how we became lovers.
This wasn't as romance filled as TSOA but it wasn't about that and I loved how Miller had it and showed her three interactions with her three great lovers (I refuse to add the trash bag Glaucus into this.) Hermes was her first and it wasn't about love it was all for pleasure but I enjoyed their interaction a lot. Daedalus was her second and I think out of all three that was the most like love. It was short lived but he was kind and truly cared for her. Then we had Odysseus which stayed with her the longest. They had a true tender bond and she bore a child from him (he didn't know) but he had a wife and son to return to. Glaucus didn't share her body but, he was actually her true first in the sense of her heart. He was the one who broke her heart and in turn, her powers were born.
I have had a love of Greek mythology as long as I remember. Of all the pantheons, the Greeks have always enthralled me, and specifically it was tales of women that stuck with me. Circe is a fantastic example of that. I loved reading her side of the interaction with Odysseus, among other (male) figures from the myths. She is complicated, smart, maybe a little vain (but hey, she is a goddess), and I enjoyed reading about her in this retelling. I would love to read more from Miller if she continues to reinvent the myths from the ladies' point of view.
I lost sleep reading this book, and in my dreams I heard Circe narrating my thoughts.
Miller weaves a gorgeous tale. Forget what you think you know about Circe. She is so much more. Dense, and light. Beautifully written. I finished reading, and immediately pre-ordered a physically copy from my local bookstore just so I could revel in this world one more time. Brava!
It might feel like a stretch to call this a coming of age novel, but that’s what it is. Circe is the daughter of the sun and a nymph and therefore an immortal, but she is disdained by the other immortals. Eventually her witchcraft gets her exiled to the island of Aiaia. She is involved in several prominent stories in mythology, including with Jason and Medea, the Minotaur, and most famously Odysseus. Still, this Circe is uncomfortable in her skin and largely unhappy with her lot and this is a story of figuring out one’s skills and purpose. It’s also lyrical and compelling and a fitting follow up to Miller’s first novel, The Song of Achilles. I loved it.
I'm still struggling to believe this moment is actually here. It was almost exactly three years ago that I read and reviewed Madeline Miller's stunning The Song of Achilles and essentially dissolved into a puddle of shock and awe. It was difficult to summon the will to move on in the wake of such a book. The crafting of it felt almost too good for this world, as though it had been created slightly above mortal ground and continued to hover there, just above us, in its natural state. So when I got wind that Ms. Miller was working on a new novel—that not only was she shifting from The Iliad to The Odyssey, but that she was focusing the tale on Circe—it was difficult not to will Chronos to speed up time so that I could have that book in my hands. To say that it was one of—if not the—most anticipated novel of the year for me is not any kind of exaggeration.
"When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist. They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and cousins. Least of the lesser goddesses, our powers were so modest they could scarcely ensure our eternities. We spoke to fish and nurtured flowers, coaxed drops from the clouds or salt from the waves. That word, nymph, paced out the length and breadth of our futures. In our language, it means not just goddess, but bride."
Circe has always been uneasy about names. The name by which the gods call her. The names by which they call themselves. Titan. Olympian. Daughter of the Sun. Nymph. Witch. The words that are permitted and those that are not. The children who are welcome at her father Helios' feet and those who are not. For much of her early life, Circe coasts under the ever-raging storm of her mother's petty schemes and her siblings' wars for dominance. Born first, but deemed least of her father's children, Circe is the butt of every joke. Pitied for her weak and scratching voice, her uncouth eyes, and her relative limpness in every way that matters to feckless deities. And yet, she never stops trying to find love and meaning and peace where there is none. Even her beloved little brother Aeëtes leaves her without a second thought when he is offered a kingdom of his own. Until one night, a turning point. Prometheus, a god himself, sentenced to be punished for his merciful gift to mortals, is hauled within their halls and whipped as a form of entertainment before he is to be chained to the rock for his crimes. Circe alone offers him drink, and their brief exchange hails the entrance of mortals into Circe's life. One act of mercy begetting many more—a long chain of actions and reactions, spooling out over the centuries and serving to outline the shape of one lone goddess' existence.
"The anger stood out plain and clean on his face. There was a 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."
Madeline Miller deals in exiles. In the paths of individuals who are sent away, forced to flee—to other realms, to underground labyrinths, to lonely isles for the rest of their days. It is a long tale Circe has to share, and one that is difficult even for her to tease out how it may have begun and how it will likely never end. In fact, so much of the tale is threaded through with the search for a reason, if any, for her existence, for a purpose that will fit the shape of her hand and feel comfortable in her grasp for as long as she cares to hold it. From the opening lines, I was lost in Circe's story. Like her, I became enamored of each fragile mortal that crossed her path. Of Glaucos as he once was, of Daedalus with his marvelous hands and his quiet presence, of Odysseus and all his clever guises. And like her, I grew more and more uncertain—at times, fearful—of how the game would play out, of whether or not she would ever find the peace, the shelter, the companionship for which she longed. Of where and when mortality and immortality may meet and whether it is possible for anything to survive. It was a long journey, filled with pain and grief and merciless beings bent on their own course and leaving swaths of lives crushed in their wake. It was also unquestionably beautiful and sensitive in its rendering. Circe is another side of the same coin that is flipped in The Song of Achilles and that we watched tumble end over end to the earth. Different, yes, and cunning in its shiftiness. But also shining and true in the same sympathetic light. I closed the book feeling a deep certainty that Madeline Miller is of the same ilk at Circe, as Penelope, as those ancient weavers of cloth, of light, of both words and worlds. And looking around me, after having walked a time in the company of these women, the fabric of this world, too, seems to hold the imprint of their sure and steady hands.