Finally a new book review! I got around writing quite a few posts last week, but I feel like it’s been a while since I last wrote an actual book review, so here goes! I had been meaning to pick up this book ever since it was released, and what best occasion than a book reading? None, really. At the beginning of the month, I got to meet the wonderful Madeline Miller at Shakespeare and Company, aka my favourite bookshop, and now that I have finished Circe, I can tell you sincerely: this book was fantastic.
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Literary Fiction, Retelling
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Set it what seems to be the beginning of times, Circe is an eponym novel following the Titan witch from her birth in the palace of her father Helios, the sun. You may know her from her encounter with Odysseus, and we sure get to meet him in his own time, but Circe’s immortal life is about so much more. From her childhood to the discovery of her powers, to her exile on the island Aiaia, she gets to meet a lot of famous mythological figures (among them Hermes and Daedalus).
But Circe is also a tale about the life and powers of a woman who constantly had to make her own choices. Used and exiled by the gods and by her own father, she had to make her own place in this world, on her own terms. Which makes the book all the more worth reading.
I absolutely LOVED this book. I had read Miller’s previous novel The Song of Achilles a while ago, and loved it, but I loved Circe even more, probably because of the feminist aspect of the story. I absolutely adore Miller’s writing, it is so enjoyable and fascinating. I rarely fall in love with an author’s writing to that extent.
It was all the more interesting to have a little background on her writing process. The book is obviously based on the Odyssey and a few more famous mythological writings, and in that aspect I learnt a lot about Circe’s life. But it’s also the author’s own take on the story, and I really loved it. Circe is a fighter, and she had a fascinating life.
The book also has a feminist dimension, and points out things that are still very much valid today, such as the fact that Circe’s brothers always had more freedom than she did, but also the few scenes where we reader witness entire ships of men arriving on Aiaia and taking everything for granted, including their hostess’s body. It was painfully realistic, and somewhat relatable even though I sadly do not have Circe’s powers, and the whole turning of men into pigs did make a lot of sense in those conditions! In addition to that, I absolutely love books about witches, and I don’t read enough of them, so that was also a plus.
I find it hard to put words on it exactly, but this book really spoke to me on a feminist level. Somehow, I needed to read it, I just didn’t know it yet… And now I can’t shut up about it.
Without giving too much away, I loved watching Circe grow, from her relationship with Glaucos, to her interesting and unexpected friendship with Penelope by the end of the book. I absolutely loved reading about Daedalus and his inventions as well, and it was fun to read mentions of many other mythological stories such as that of Ariadne or Medea. I’m a huge mythology fan, and took Ancient Greek lessons for years when I was in school, and as such, this book was a jewel.
So basically, this book is a full package: amazing story, amazing writing, and fascinating characters. If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?