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When it comes to the recent publication of the book Circe, by Madeline Miller, I believe that neither the book, nor the author are in dire need of recognition, for both have received lots of positive feedback. I would however like to share my point of view on the retelling of this fantastic story, as a middle grade classics student, and all around mythology enthusiast!

The first thing I can tell you is this- believe the hype. When Homer first wrote of Circe, he depicted her as a minor goddess. But a minor goddess she does not remain to be. Circe has become a tale both old, and brand new. As Madeline Miller spins the tale of the “nasty witch” of Aeaea, she is able to both stay true to the original stories found in ancient texts, as well as highlight the true strength and beauty that belonged to Circe. Miller is even able to grasp the poetic writing style of original writers of Circe’s story, while transforming it to be pleasing and easy to understand for modern day readers.

As far as the plot of Circe, it is one to be admired, with a character equally as complex. Woman. Witch. Outcast. Goddess. Lover. Daughter of Helios. Single Mother. Fighter. Survivor. The once feeble nymph became all of those things. On her quest to self discovery, she also had to endure many challenges, including love, heartbreak, guilt, sorcery, family competition, monsters, gender disadvantages, and above all, the follies and complex nature of eternal life. Circe herself is said to hardly be a goddess, only distinguishable from a mortal by her immortal lifespan. She was never as powerful as her parents, nor as beautiful as her siblings. She was pushed aside and abused throughout her entire life. Even her voice is said to have been the same as mortals, a sign of weakness in the godly community. And yet Circe was capable of so much more than was once thought of her. 

The line between the Gods and mortals is one often crossed in the story of Circe, for in no other myth were the two so closely related. If Circe was a goddess than why would she fall for mortal men? And if mortals were to worship the Gods then why would Circe turn them into one? Miller illustrates the carelessness that accompanies immortality, as well as the sacrifices humanity is willing to make for a shot at it. What is really to gain from eternal life? What will be lost? Like a spider she creatively weaves in questions that will challenge your idea of past and current situations. Madeline Miller also does a really great job of transporting the reader into Circe’s shoes so that we really feel every emotion she is feeling. Every chapter I felt something different, whether it be anger, or sadness, or curiosity, and that is something that really hooked me on this story.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to anyone who even remotely enjoys the art of storytelling. And to anyone who decides to read this book, you have quite a unique experience in store for you.

READ IF YOU LIKE: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin.

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Favorite Quotes:

  • Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.
  • “You threw me to the crows, but it turns out I prefer them to you.” 
  • “The truth is, men make terrible pigs.” 
  • We are sorry, we are sorry. Sorry you were caught, I said. Sorry that you thought I was weak, but you were wrong.”

Review by: Ava