Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller
(Almost Five Stars)
“I thought: this is how Zeus felt when he first lifted the thunderbolt.”
Well done. Follows the formula Miller first employed in The Song of Achilles: making a sympathetic bit character from a Homeric epic–in this case Odyssey–the point of view character for the entire story, expanding and embellishing as necessary. Works. Told in the first person by Circe, this tale weaves the psychology of her estrangement from just about everyone with the tapestry of ancient Greek history and mythology. Introspective but engaging.
“All those years I had spent with them were like a stone tossed in a pool. Already, the ripples were gone.”
Episodic, but with enough foreshadowing to keep the reader involved–mostly.
“Most men do not know me for what I am.” “Most men, in my experience, are fools. I confess you nearly made me give the game away. Your father, the cowherd?”
Readers familiar with Greek history and mythology will appreciate the scope of Miller’s story. She didn’t just have Circe witness various tales, but be immersed in their development. Non-history and literature nerds might not rate it so high.
“Odysseus … showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
Rape? Yes, a man rapes her body. But the gods and Titans–some her family–rape her soul over and over. But she also finds love in unexpected places.
“[Odysseus] the spiral shell. Always another curve out of sight.”
Lots of nice turns of phrase as Miller sought to avoid modern idioms which might sound like anachronisms. “They looked weak as mushroom gills.” “… picking up gossip as hems gather mud.” “easy and green as grass.”
“Before [Odysseus], all the heroes were Heracles or Jason. Now children will play at voyaging, conquering hostile lands with wits and words.” “He would like that.”
I read both of Miller’s books. Liked both and recommended them to others. Her education surely prepared her to write these two books. Glad you like Circe, too!