Greek Monsters in Circe | Spoiler-Free Review

Circe by Madeline Miller

5 Star Rating System 5 stars

Genre: Greek Mythology
Author: Madeline Miller
Published: April 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 336 {hardback}

Review on Goodreads


Initial Thoughts Upon Finishing

Wow so now I definitely feel bad for having put off reading a Madeline Miller book for so long. This was awesome! The Song of Achilles is certainly now much higher up on my TBR – and! I have great motivation to actually get around to reading it. I loved the voice this book gives to Circe and how much fun the whole story was. I can only dream that Miller makes a narrative like this for all the interesting Greek Mythological figures.


Circe

If you are unfamiliar with Greek myth and have no idea who Circe is, then I will start by telling you she is a goddess and a Titan. And if Titan means nothing to you either, I would recommend a baptism of fire via the brilliant words of a Mr Stephen Fry in Mythos. You will certainly find yourself much better acquainted with many of the characters who pop up in this book if you read that.

But if you don’t care, then settle yourself down for a fantastic story. This whole book centres around the mysterious, witchy figure of Circe: daughter of the Sun God, outcast, exiled and probably most likely recognised for her small part in Odysseus’ story, what with him stopping off on the island for a spell (which we explore in juicier detail in Circe). I have not read Miller’s previous book, as I’ve mentioned (The Song of Achilles), so I’d definitely be curious to know if the two stories have any nods towards each other (given that Achilles is pally with Odysseus with the Trojan war etc *shrug*).

We follow Circe from her birth to the very end of her life – well, the end of the exciting stories in her life as are recorded, I suppose. She is immortal, after all. The tale looks at her neglected childhood, her bullying father, failed loves, exile, refusal of Athena and so much more. It’s a proper fun story filled with all the excess drama one could possibly want from a Greek tale.


Greek Mythology

I’m now going to tell you whether this book is accurate and easy to read having done exactly no research on the mythological accuracy of this story. So take my word with a large pinch of salt.

As far as I’m aware this isn’t just Miller sitting down and having us lap up an entirely made up story. From what I know and the briefest of Wikipedia searches (shame on me), she has actually based this off as much ‘fact’ as we know. Obviously, as this is myth, nothing is fact. Ho hum.

It seemed as though Miller has taken the bare bones of a story and breathed life into it. I don’t even know if there is a story in the Iliad that further explores Circe’s character than the basics of what we learn of her in the Odyssey. Maybe an origin story? Idek. It’s been a heckin long time since I read the Odyssey and I remember maybe like 2%. EITHER WAY. It’s this wonderful imagining of what Circe might’ve been thinking, how she came to her decisions and what drove her as a goddess.

It’s very easy to read, that I can say with confidence. It’s a proper story, not a ‘non-fiction’ account of the character. So don’t shy away from this thinking you’re walking into an unwanted history lesson.


Why I Enjoyed It

The best part about this book is how freaking fantastic the characters are. They’re all so believably godlike; they’re stubborn, ruthless, mean, cold-hearted, ambitious and condescending – everything we’ve come to love in Greek myth, am I right?

Circe is a wonderfully relatable character. She’s full of self-doubt, desperate to impress and unwilling to upset people. Though when one puts it like that, it rather sounds like a harsh self-reflection – so I suppose what I’m trying to say is Circe comes across as wonderfully flawed and therefore human: not ‘other’. Which makes it terribly exciting to then realise that actually, she’s a badass god with witchy skills *throws potion bottles*.

Her battles with motherhood (with added difficulties from a tyrannical Athena) were probably akin to a memoir of any struggling mother and her devotion to her son’s protection was very sweet. I, too, would swim to the depths of the ocean to face an impossible monster for my son’s sake (that’s a lie, screw that). But not to mention that other characters such as Odysseus, himself, feature heavily and experience quite an in-depth character exploration from Miller with the way their represented. This is probably my favourite interpretation of Penelope, it gave her a lot more depth that her loyal portrayal in the Odyssey.

The stories are also simply a lot of fun. The monsters she battles and creates: fantastic. The men she turns into pigs when they try to rape her: brilliant. The spells she casts: inspiring. The difficulties from her childhood she overcomes: marvelous. Not to mention the epic kick-ass moment she has at the end of the book *makes a sassy burn noise*.


Summary

There is, quite simply, not much to not love in this book. Circe is your new hero and this book is so enjoyable. I loved the audiobook which is how I read this and I thought the performance was spot on. My favourite thing about audiobooks when you get a good narrator like in this one is that it builds a further dimension to the characters by giving them a voice. I’ve heard endless praises for this book so I would highly recommend that you check this out yourself!


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Happy reading!

~~ Kirstie ~~

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6 thoughts on “Greek Monsters in Circe | Spoiler-Free Review

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