Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
The story centres around Circe, daughter of Helios the sun god and Perse, an Oceanid nymph. Although she was a goddess, she was treated poorly by her family and relatives for lacking the appearance of a divine being. Her isolation led her to seek companionship from mortals and her actions led her to discover a power hidden and despised by the gods: witchcraft. She got sentenced to exile by her father to the remote island of Aiaia and in the course of time she spent there, she learnt to hone her gift of magic and ultimately meet different people: both mortals and immortals who aid in shaping the path she decided to pursue: embrace her divinity and the kin who discarded her or stay with the mortals she came to love.
I love that Circe is a retelling of a classic Greek mythology and being a fan already, had me excited all the way through. Madeline Miller did an amazing job in presenting Circe in the forefront by having the stories we’ve all learnt either through either history class or pure interest, narrated from her perspective rather than the heroes and gods who usually had starring roles in mythologies. Those with prior knowledge of Circe have read that she was merely an enchantress who had the ability to turn men into swine and seduce whoever she pleased. In the reinterpretation, there seemed to be a challenge for Madeline to depict Circe as a feminist character who rose above the odds as most women in Greek mythologies were portrayed as manipulative and their roles as insignificant to the advancement of society although there were exceptions such as Athena, goddess of war.
Sexuality is a subject Madeline does not shy away from. There are a lot of seduction scenes, most of them brief but kind of excessive. One can conclude that Circe was a product of her time so exhibiting herself that way helped her dominate over her male counterparts especially as this was an acceptable trait for women. This didn’t really bother me as I saw the bigger picture which was learning who and how she came to be through trials and error. I can’t help but understand that under all the bravado and regardless of how many times she had her heartbroken she still hoped for filial love.
This was a beautiful standalone novel and my first time reading a book by Madeline Miller. This has definitely piqued my interest in trying out other retellings of Greek mythologies as they already have a special place in my heart.