Circe by Madeline Miller is the first book that I read in 2021.
I chose to start with Circe because I wanted to start my year off with a strong female lead and I was not disappointed. Circe’s story as told by Miller is a fantastic read, that really resonated with me.
Circe, the daughter of the Titan Helios starts off as a meek and disregarded member of the Titan’s family. Often the victim of ridicule and humiliation you begin to understand the family dynamic and sympathy for Circe begins to blossom. I enjoyed reading about Circe’s childhood, as it really does help with her character development. She starts off as a soft little flower seeking shelter at her father’s feet but will eventually transform into the myth which brought her infamy for centuries.
Anyone who has some interest in Greek Mythology will know about Circe. My first encounter with her was while reading the Percy Jackson novels. I knew that eventually Circe would end up on an island and would start turning sailors in pigs, but I wanted to know about the why and the how. Miller’s retelling is slow and steady, but rather than turning into a boring read, it allows you to become invested into the story. You want to know what happens to Circe because you truly start to understand her and feel her pain and happiness. Rather than reading a rushed retelling which would be as disappointing as the last two seasons of Game of Thrones, you get to go on the journey with Circe. You experience the highs and the lows and for lack of a better cliché, it really is a rollercoaster of emotions.
I won’t spoil the story for you, but Circe’s various different relationships with the men in her life show why Circe eventually started to turn men into pigs. I think we can all connect with the disappointment of pouring yourself into a person and getting nothing in return. This isn’t limited to romantic relationships, but all, whether they are familial, platonic, romantic or sexual. I liked that the pigs weren’t even the main part of her story. She has an epic story and you get to hear about it, from her.
Circe is a Titan Goddess, but is so relatable and I think that’s why you fall for her. You can see parts of yourself within the myth and understand how she became the woman that she is known as today.
I would really recommend this book if you like feminist retellings of Greek Mythology. We’ve had countless tales of heroes and their gallant adventures, but we rarely saw the women in these stories. They’re often a minor character who assisted the hero or caused some sort of hindrance, but now, we can read about them and their stories. The heroes are now the minor characters in these women’s tales.
I didn’t like the ending, but that’s only because I would have liked for her story to end in a different way. I do however understand why she chose that path for herself and it makes sense when you understand what she’s always wanted.
Miller is a fantastic writer, who wove this beautiful story. I loved the book and I loved Circe. I felt a real affinity for her and I wish everyone could read this book. My love for Greek Mythology as a feminist was really sated and the hype around the book was so well deserved.
I’ve really kicked the year off with an excellent read and I can’t wait for the rest of the books that I will be reading throughout this year.
If you have any recommendations for books based on Greek Mythology, please leave a comment!