“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”
From birth, Circe has always looked to earn the approval of her father and the other gods, but when she is spurned and banished to the island of Aeaea, her long tale of perseverance begins there.
***Genre: Classic, mythology, romance
***Thank you to Netgalley for sending an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated here are solely my own and have not been influenced in any way.
Would it be of any surprise to anyone that I enjoyed this book immensely? I’ve been the biggest advocate of Madeline Miller ever since I discovered The Song of Achilles, and my great regard for her has not diminished in the slightest: Circe is a goddess’ tale of timeless resilience, and I found it an incredibly impressive endeavor.
Because to start, Circe is an inherently feminist tale, and the author does a terrific job putting you into the shoes (ahem, sandals!) of a goddess. There are themes of motherhood, violence against women, and the means of a woman to survive in a man-dominated world, and it was most empowering to see how flawed yet complex the women of this narrative were (such as Circe, Penelope, and Pasiphae).
Furthermore, how does one bring a sense of time or humanity into a goddess’ life? The plight of Circe easily could’ve felt irrelevant to the reader as she is an immortal being who is impervious to mortal harms, yet the author imbues this character with colors of human emotions that we can relate to such as fear, longing, and loneliness, and that truly absorbed me into Circe’s impasse of feeling cursed by her eternal life.
As for my favorite part of this book, it would be by far Circe’s visit to her sister’s kingdom. It is there that not only do we see a very stirring exchange between Circe and her sister, but Circe meets a certain somebody who for the first time brings a sense of love and hope to this book, and it was in such scenes that I felt such terrible joy and sadness that I was moved to tears, and even now remains burned into my mind.
Bottom line, this book was profoundly effective at delivering a sense of isolation to the reader. Circe is thirsty for purpose in her life, and the author immerses you into her torturous life of stagnancy through a slow, cerebral burn that, while at times a tad overdone, pays off in one of the most uplifting finales I’ve read this year. Yes.
“You threw me to the crows, but it turns out I prefer them to you.”
If you loved The Song of Achilles, you will enjoy the similar storytelling in Circe. The fleeting moments of romance in this book were just as compelling as SoA (like, I legit cried), and I felt in some ways it was a more nuanced endeavor as characters like Circe and Oddysseus were fleshed out in impressively complex ways.
Therefore, recommended for ages 15 and up! Caution is advised as there is a case of rape in this book and a few squeamish instances of blood as this book gets more up and personal with the actions of the gods, so it will obviously be a tad more graphic. Also, I will say that the pacing in each third of this book differs rather drastically from each other, so that might be a slight criticism for this book.
Bottom line: So cathartic!
This book will be a lonely experience for most people, but I personally loved the waves of hope and despair that washed over me every other chapter. Circe is a woman stuck on an island (literally and metaphorically) who sees people come and go in her life, so it was most empowering to see her long journey encompassed in a satisfying finale.
Therefore, this book gets 4.5 stars from me. It meanders a bit in the middle, but it ultimately delivers a profound message about resilience, defining your own destiny, and pushing through in times of hopelessness, and it was absolutely lovely.
My rating: 4.5/5 frogs
***Now here’s a confession. I absolutely adored this book, but I still love Song of Achilles a tad more. Which has nothing to do with the execution! SoA thrives upon the crowd-pleasing interactions between two characters whereas Circe gives you a sense of tortured loneliness, so it makes sense for the former to be inherently more enjoyable.
***And the thing is, the first thing I thought after finishing this book was: “So when’s the next book coming out?” Which is funny because Miller isn’t known for pumping out books, but this book was so lovely that I was like, “I need the next retelling, NOW.”
***As a final note, did anyone else scream when certain characters from Song of Achilles were mentioned in this book? I nearly had an aneurysm, yeeesh….