I am going to be honest – “Circe” by Madeline Miller is not a book that I would typically read. Yet, I found it to be so good and engaging. But let’s go from the beginning.
“Circe” is a novel that is based on Greek mythology and centers around the protagonist Circe. She is a goddess, the daughter of Helios (god of the sun) and the naiad Perse. She is not one of the prettiest or brightest of Helios’ children, or mostly she is not regarded as one, and mostly keeps to herself. She is mostly mocked by her brothers and sisters and often finds herself feeling lonely until she meets a fisherman Glaucos. She falls in love with him but since she is a goddess and he is a mortal, she can’t marry him. While searching for ways to be with Glaucos, she discovers that she has magic powers and transforms Glaucos into a god. Things eventually do not work out between them as Glaucos falls for another nymph whom she transforms into a monster as revenge. Having discovered and revealed her powers to her father, she is banished by both her family and Zeus to live on a distant island alone for the rest of her life for the reason of using her powers for bad intentions. From there, starts her journey of self-discovery. We also encounter a lot of different characters from Greek mythology such as a great traveler Odysseus and a great master Daedalous throughout Circe’s life on the remote island. There is much more to the plot but I am going to leave the details for you to enjoy.
Although I was skeptical about how much I would actually enjoy the book, I often found myself lost in it and did not see the time go by. I found the characters, especially Circe, to be exquisitely written. Although she is immortal, I could see her evolving from an inexperienced nymph to a wise goddess who is not scared to challenge and defy the odds. I find it interesting that the author was able to achieve this while the character was locked both in her age and her location.
I also appreciated the writing of Madeline Miller. It was simple but exquisite.
“It was my first lesson. Beneath the smooth, familiar face of things is another that waits to tear the world in two”.
“She was showing her mink teeth, trying to get me to melt like all those naiads in Oceanos’ halls. But there was no wound she could give me that I had not already given myself.”
“It was true what Hermes said. Every moment mortals died, by shipwreck and sword, by wild beasts and wild men, by illness, neglect, and age. It was their fate, as Prometheus had told me, the story that they all shared. No matter how vivid they were in life, no matter how brilliant, no matter the wonders they made, they came to dust and smoke.”
“Our faces are both lined now, marked with our years. Circe, he says, it will be all right.
It is not the saying of an oracle or a prophet. They are words you might speak to a child. I have heard him say them to our daughters when he rocked them back to sleep from a nightmare, when he dressed their small cuts, soothed whatever stung. His skin is familiar as my own breath beneath my fingers. I listen to his breath, warm upon the night air, and somehow I am comforted. He does not mean that it does not hurt. He does not mean that we are not frightened. Only that: we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive.”
It is a great read, give it a try!