As it was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction I had an inkling that Circe by Madeline Miller would be my kind of book, then I read the blurb; it definitely was my kind of book.
Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her 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 will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.
So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.
Initially, the names and my fading knowledge of Greek mythology left me slightly muddled, but as with all novels, you adjust to the new fictional world and I found myself wondering what Scylla (Circe’s childhood friend/frienemie) did day to day, where Aetes was now. And Circe? Well she was captivating.
A woman who is told to stay silent as her voice is an unpleasant sound compared to their angelic godly tones, is shunned as a runt of an acclaimed family that is until she uses her words as weapons, in witch craft. One by one Circe heals, destroys, saves and endangers her family, lovers and passers-by.
She is a force to be reckoned with in a literal sense. I didn’t like her initially, while she was overlooked and disparaged, I didn’t see much substance to her as a protagonist to view her favourably, but that changed rapidly.
Without a doubt, Circe is one of the most intricate, complex characters I’ve read in a while, as well as the complexity of the narrative itself. It’s a remarkable book and testament to Miller’s marvellous writing and intellect to be able to formulate such a magical world entwined with Greek myths and legends.
Once I’d grasped the names and places, I was hooked. Meticulously reading every word to make sure I’d formulated the rich picture Miller was creating.
The ending was as enchanting as the journey. I highly recommend reading this excellent novel.