“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
Read in April 2020
This book deserved every single second I spend reading it. I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology, I vow an unfailing love to the movie Troy -you can even find me online under the alias Briseis– my favourite childhood computer games (outside of the Sims) are ‘Zeus: Master of Olympus’ & ‘Poseidon: Master of Atlantis’ and I remember falling in love with the Iliad and the Odyssey when I read them at Middle School. Mid-April I stumbled upon an online interview of Madeline Miller, and I found it so interesting and even moving that I was destined to jump right into her book the following day. For those of you who don’t know that yet, Circe is a character you can find in Homer’s Odyssey, she is the daughter of Helios, the God of the sun, and of the Oceanid nymph Perse. In the Odyssey, she appears when Odysseus finds himself on her island while he tries to get home to Ithaca from the Trojan War. You can find Circe in Book 10 of Homer’s Odyssey if you’re interested, you can find it here.
Now, let’s get back to Madeline Miller’s book. First of all, I want to say that I mostly listened to the audiobook version of it, even though I switched back and forth between the audiobook and the book, and I have to say that I really loved the narrator. Her voice was mysterious and beautiful, it fitted perfectly the narrative, from the lyrical writing style to the mystical Circe herself. I loved how the author managed to reverse the roles; in the collective mind, Circe is only a small part of Odysseus’ life, a supporting character in his story and yet, Miller manages to make us discover that Odysseus is only a small part of Circe’s story as well. She gives her background, reasons, and while she mostly leans on what we already know in the mythology, she added details and moments that came out of her imagination. Legend and fantasy blend perfectly together, giving a beautiful yet powerful version of a story of a goddess told by a talented author.
“That is one thing gods and mortals share: when we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.”
I’m not an expert on Circe’s life, but her youth was one of the things I knew the less about before reading this book, and yet it was one of my favourite part in this book. All the years prior to meeting with Odysseus were vital to understanding Circe as a character. They shaped her, they made her grow up, washing away gullibility and move on to suspicion. When she was born, Circe was rejected by her kin because she didn’t look ‘divinity’; she wasn’t beautiful enough and her voice was odd. As she grows up lonely and neglected, she discovers that she has a gift forbidden by the gods. One day she falls in love with a mortal fisherman, she uses her power to turn him into a god. This enrages Zeus who decides to ban her to a remote island as a punishment. Circe lives happily and quietly taking wild animals as pets and perfecting her knowledge of herbs.
I’m so impressed with Madeline Miller’s skills at writing, Circe was the first book I read written by her; however, I’ll definitely try The Song of Achilles in a very close future. I’m eager to try a book about a part of mythology I know more of. My favourite parts of this book, outside of Circe’s life before being banned to Aeaea, were the careful balance between human, every mythological figure. I loved how the gods were described as frightened, vain, jealous, temperamental… My favourite quotes were about them, and I loved the scenes where we could see Athena and Hermes, they felt weirdly natural and believable. They were perfectly described in an authentic and respectful way. Circe was a morally grey character and I enjoyed her POV, I liked that a woman got to tell her own story with her own voice.
“You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.”
Everything about this book was beautiful, but I have to say that I was kind of bored here and there when Circe was telling us about the isolation. This is also where everything I already knew about her happened; therefore the lack of surprises didn’t help the situation. The made-up parts were so well written and believable that I actually had to check online constantly if said events were part of the author’s imagination or from actual mythology. Overall, I really feel Circe and her struggles, I could relate to her as a woman so much. The last few chapters were magnificent as well, ending this book on a high note, and I confess I shed a tear or two.
Have you read or will you read this book?
What did you think about it?