I am back and I have just finished my first book of 2023…which is kind of embarrassing, to say the least.
Nevertheless, we persist.
I was in a reading slump for a while, because I kept picking up books that were making me feel incredibly depressed, so I would not feel very inclined to read them. Then, I finally decided I wanted to read something a little more exciting and fantastical, so I picked up Circe by Madeline Miller.
Before reading this book, I had read Song of Achilles, so I was already a fan of Miller’s writing style and the way that she re-molds and re-tells stories that have been told for ages before us. I also was a BIG Greek Mythology girlie in elementary/middle school, so falling back into that world was very appealing to me!
Unlike the Percy Jackson/Rick Riordan type of retellings a lot of us are used to, this book is not super adventurous or fun-filled. Actually, almost all of it takes place in the same setting, following our singular main character through the thousands of years of her life. The growth that we see in Circe is very interesting, because it is not a simple coming of age story–she has been alive for the rise and fall of empires, and the expansion of the world.
Another thing I found interesting while reading was that we as the reader are clued into who each of the different legends are before they are revealed. As someone with a knowledge of Greek mythology, but not a super technical one, it was fun to have a kind of “ah ha!” moment before Circe was aware of who she was talking to. I think this is fully attributed to Miller’s ability as a writer to use clues such as timeframe, setting, and characterization to lead the reader to this realization.
The last thing I will touch on in this review is the very strong underlying themes of femininity and strength in womanhood, as well as motherhood. I won’t go all AP-level analysis on you, but I will say that this book does a really great job of being a piece of modern feminist literature without trying too hard at it. We did not lose any substance of the myth or the character, and we got to see this feminist strength highlighted in a mythological figure who had already had it to begin with. It never felt like this book was trying to teach a lesson (don’t be a pig, maybe ;)), but in the end, like any good book, you walk away with more insight into things like love, mortality, and womanhood.
I really enjoyed this book! I love Miller’s writing style and the way she paints an entire world and truly connects you to these characters that are seemingly untouchable in mythology. I recommend this book to everyone, not just those who have an interest in Greek mythology. But, I would especially recommend it to anyone who has ever had any interest in the Greek myths, because it’s an intriguing spin on stories that we think we know, from the lense of a character that we may not expect!