I was surprised because Madeline Miller carefully retold the myths since I was expecting her to change some things, add this, ignore that… But no, she didn’t contradict mythology as we know it. Yet, she crafted a compelling fairytale. And that’s the magic of great writers ‒ to take an existing story and breathe fresh essence into it, giving it a beautiful new life.
In her alluring, lyrical style, the author portrays Circe from early childhood. Along the way, she reveals why the famous sorceress is different from the other gods, demigods, and titans. Young Circe sometimes reminds of a clever girl with a kind soul in a hellish high school full of spoiled bitches. The witch is rebellious too, although she isn’t aware of that in the beginning. Interestingly, in a world full of narcissistic creatures driven by vanity, lust, or hate, Circe’s motivation for fooling around with magic is love. Even when she does bad things, love drives her thoughts and moves her hand.
Unlike her kind, Circe finds humans fascinating. And she feels a kinship with them, something she never experienced with her family no matter how much she tried. Circe is more relaxed with humans and believes that they are kinder than gods. However, she will find out the hard way that some people are even viler monsters than her kind.
I can’t reveal much more without spoilers, but be warned before you start this book: It will take you on a compelling journey in the manner of old, romantic, hopeful fairytales. Miller’s poetic style will bewitch you, pulling you straight into the witch’s kitchen. You will feel Circe’s loneliness and sorrow, yearning, tiny sparks of hope, the awakening of her powers. You will walk by her side, pick magical plants, and rejoice in the intoxicating scent of flowers. You will wish to hold her hand when she finds herself between Charybdis and Scylla. You will refresh your knowledge of Greek mythology from a fresh, insightful, female point of view. You will find out that the immortals were molded on the worst mortals. You will hold your breath in anticipation, grit your teeth in anger, smile contentedly, and cheer with approval while accompanying one of the most famous old-civilization witches on her adventures. What more can you ask of a book?
Describe this book with one word: Invigorating
The perfect beverage to sip while reading this book: Oinomelo (Krasomelo, Greek white wine mulled with honey and spices)
This book’s best musical buddy: Rhiannon ‒ Fleetwood Mac (Yes, Rhiannon is a Welsh witch, but the lyrics suit Circe)
Literary awards: ALA Alex Award (2019), Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee (2019), Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy (2018)
“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.”
“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”
“That is one thing gods and mortals share. When we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.”
“I thought: I cannot bear this world a moment longer. Then, child, make another.”