In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is strange – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. But she has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When Circe’s gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone cannot lie in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.
Circe’s tale is a vivid epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the inextinguishable song of a woman burning hot and bright in the darkness of a man’s world.
Circe, what to say, this book has been on my list for a while now and it really did not disappoint. Those who follow this blog will know I am loving the Greek Mythology retellings, but am by no means an expert. So, I knew very little about Circe, I met her briefly when I read A Thousand Ships but that really was the extent of my knowledge.
Exiled to an island for an eternity, the minor goddess, daughter of Helios, makes a life for herself using magic to protect herself, from male visitors to the island – keen to take advantage of a lone woman. Her story spans decades and I loved her encounters with other legends, Joseph, Ariadne and Odysseus and of course Hermes, to name a few.
Circe was magical to me, engrossing and enchanting, but it drew the stories together as they touched the life of Circe and like her life, her story is broad and expansive. The writing is eloquent and very accessible, the book in 330 pages, covers her childhood, her exile and a lifetime beyond, packing in legends and myths. Told in a way that brings these stories to life – I finished this book and others in this genre, wanting and wishing they were true!
I have read a few of the recent retellings now – you can read my reviews, linked below or tell me in the comments your recommendations. What I am beginning to notice is how the stories weave together and overlap. The mighty gods and the lesser gods, the mortals – the heroes and the villians. The stories are fascinating and deserving of this recent written revival and they stand the test of time.
About the Author
Madeline Miller is the author of The Song of Achilles, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012, was shortlisted for the Stonewall Writer of the Year 2012, was an instant New York Times bestseller, and was translated into twenty-five languages. Circe is her second novel and was an instant number one New York Times bestseller and a Sunday Times bestseller. Miller holds an MA in Classics from Brown University, and she taught Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students for over a decade. She lives outside Philadelphia.