I finished Circe by Madeline Miller during the week, so I thought I would tell you about it.
Circe is of course Miller’s follow up book to Song of Achilles which was very popular amongst my bookish friends. Circe is Miller’s account of the goddess of the same name – daughter of Helios and Perse, known for her magical talent with herbs and potions, being the lover of Odysseus and turning men into pigs.
Miller’s writing is beautiful and weaves a delightful tale full of both joy and sorrow. I love the way she brings the mythological figures to life. Circe actually made me keen to pick up The Odyssey, which I read many years ago and it was an absolute slog. (I do have Emily Wilson’s translation sitting waiting for me! I’m sure it will be better this time around.)
Circe always feels on the outer – she is not powerful the way the other gods are powerful, so she is seen as ugly, useless and a bit of a nuisance by the rest of her family. She has a doomed love for Glaucus, who she changes from a mortal into a god, which has unexpected consequences. Discovering her talent for witchcraft results in Zeus banishing her to Aeaea, where she builds herself a home and practices her craft.
I tend to think of gods in myths as being fully formed an incapable of character development. Circe is quite the opposite, observing her own naïveté and her slow growth through her experiences.
I did very much enjoy the latter half of the book and Circe’s relationship with Odysseus and then their son Telegonus, who she raises on her own. The characters leap off the page and take flight in a way that mythological tales don’t when I read them. We need more sexy witches in our myths!
Have you read Circe? What did you think?