Trigger warnings : rape, violence.
Madeline Miller broke my heart to pieces once again.
I wonder if she will ever write a book that won’t make me feel devastated for months.
I loved The Song of Achilles a lot, it was a brilliant read. I also adored Galatea to pieces, but I was absolutely nervous about Circe. Mostly because the canon literature on her is scarce, there’s not as much information on her as there was on Achilles and Patroclus. So, I knew Miller would have to fill in the gaps and oh, she did. She did it spectacularly too. I don’t even know why I had doubts.
I have an advice for all of you who already read TSOA, don’t go into Circe expecting it to be super similar to Miller’s debut because it won’t be. Circe is so much more character-focused, unlike TSOA which was very action-packed/plot focused. Also, ships aren’t as much of a focus here either (though there is romance!!!).
Now that we’re in the clear about this, let’s get into the things that made Circe as stellar as I say it was.
The characterization was amazing. God, Madeline Miller creates some of the most realistic, flawed characters in modern literature. And no matter how many flaws they might have, you’ll root for them until the very end. Circe is the daughter of Helios, the Titan of Sun and of nymph Perse and she’s quite a misfit in her family from the very beginning. Not beautiful enough, not powerful enough, never enough, Circe is kind of a faded figure in her family.
Because of that, she’s also the easiest to dispose of. Something that happens when she’s sent in exile because of something she did. You see Circe is a witch and Zeus isn’t super happy about it. Therefore, exile it is.
I was kind of worried at how the plot will evolve from here because Circe is in exile, she can’t really move from her island, most books would have lost their substance from here and bore the reader. But not in this case. Circe was still a witness to many major events from mythology (which I considered to be a cool thing – I know some people didn’t enjoy those parts as much, but I really adored them. Achilles and Patroclus were briefly mentioned in a very “let’s-kill-the-shippers-once-again” manner, Medea made an appearance, Daedalus as well and lots of gods & goddesses).
Awful men get what they deserve and I’m so here for it!!!
Odysseus was also a big part of this book, as expected and once again, I questioned everything I ever thought about him. When I first read The Odyssey, I admired his cleverness a lot, he had been my favourite ever since The Iliad because of the whole Trojan Horse plot. Now, I’ve read them when I was a child and I read an edited version in Romanian specifically for children, which means many things weren’t included. But now, Circe raised some important questions about him and made me even more aware of how much I need to reread Homer’s books – this time not the children edition.
I liked how Miller reinterpreted the scene between Circe and Odysseus and gave it a more logical spin. Also, this book is so feminist, it makes me cry when I think how this amazing author takes everything from mythology (even problematic stuff) and turns it to gold. Madeline Miller is King Midas in disguise, mark my words.
The only thing that I didn’t really feel super enthusiastic about was the romance (or Circe’s “endgame”). I’ll just never get used to how relationships work when it comes to mythology, Still loved the metaphor at the end and Circe becoming who she truly had been from the beginning.
Would recommend this book to everyone who’s passionate about mythology, feminism and character-orientated books.
Actually I recommend it to everyone, just go and read the book, please!
Have you read anything written by Madeline Miller?
Have you read Circe? How much did you love it?