Believe me when I say that anything Madeline Miller writes is a must read. I know she’s only written two books so far, but she is by far one of my favourite authors. When I read The Song of Achilles, I was completely enchanted. And while many people said that the ending was heart wrenching (which I mean, yeah it kind of is) I also found it really heart warming.
Circe’s mythology is one that I was less familiar with. Yes, I did know that she was in the Odyssey, but I didn’t really know anything further. I did also know that she was a powerful magician, and a divinity. But other than that? I was going in blind.
I have to say that I loved this story, maybe even more than TSoA. Even though I was more knowledgeable on the Achilles and Patrocles story, I was so happy to learn about it. First of all, I really like it when imperfect women are still written as strong characters. Circe was definitely not a perfect character – she struggled with morality, she did bad things, and there was that little incident where she turned people into pigs. Am I saying they didn’t deserve it? No. But I mean… she did jump to conclusions a little bit.
I love these retellings of myths though. It really does bring more to the story. For example, this retelling really dived into Circe’s motivations for things. She was the maker of gods, she was the one who made and killed Scylla. Her emotions are re-imagined in this book as the driving force of so many large events in Greek myth, and I kind of love that human emotions in a non-human divinity are the reasons behind her superhuman acts.
The other characters were kind of maddening, which I think was perfect. The gods were portrayed perfectly in my opinion, inhumane and cold, distant and removed from humanity, truly looking down on them and believing that they were better. And this is exactly how the gods were. Even when they favored humans, they were very dangerous and fickle, as seen through Athena’s interactions with Odysseus and Telemachos! They’re not humans and should be regarded as such, something that Circe is constantly reminding her son.
The other humans were also superbly written. Daedalus, Penelope and Telemachos were very sweet, and I really liked how Odysseus and the other sailors of his crew kind of thawed Circe’s heart. She discovered that not all humans can be horrible, which I really think was part of why she was able to find love. The other human men who were turned into pigs were horrible, and I really felt heated and completely agreed with what Circe did to them. Honestly, Miller’s writing brings out emotions in me so easily, and I really love it.
And the ending! Wow, I was not expecting that. In one of my previous posts I talked about how I don’t love when characters have to give something up for the story to proceed. But this ending felt perfectly in character, and really showed how Circe came full circle. In the beginning of the book she attempted to make herself happy by creating another divine being. But I think that something the story made very clear was that throughout all the divinities present in the pantheon, Circe was the exception, not the rule. Creating more immortals was never going to solve the problem, it would only exacerbate it. But creating more humans, who have the capacity to feel and love, could only make things better. I think that the question of immortality is a really interesting one, and I have definitely changed my idea of how I would answer it with growing up. The ending of this book definitely addresses it, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!
Finally, I think that the pacing of this novel was really excellent. There wasn’t really ever a time that I was bored, and I loved reading about mythology that I was unfamiliar with. What was even more fun was that I was able to tie the book into my final project for an Ancient Greek Religion course, and reading this book counted as ‘studying’ for my final haha.
Overall, I really think that the book is 5/5 stars. I could reread it in a heart beat! If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest it!
Until tomorrow ducks!