Circe (Madeline Miller)

This has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 – Circe by Madeline Miller, author of the song of achilles (review here). I was so excited! And honestly – have you seen the cover?! We’ve had some rare sunshine in England over the last few days, so I prowled the garden looking for pretty things to pose my shiny (IT’S SHINY) book with. Here’s the photoshoot. This damn book is more photogenic than I am.

Circe, in the Odyssey (which I have never read – I’ve read summaries), was a goddess cast out and exiled for witchcraft. Amongst her many “failings”, she had a habit of turning sailors that washed up on her island into swine and keeping them locked in a sty – until Odysseus graces her shore and she falls in love with him. That’s the mythology I know anyway – it’s fairly basic and I’m sure a google search could turn up more. Anyway, in Madeline Miller’s new novel (it came out in the US 10th April, UK 18th), Circe is cursed for her independence, and lives her eternity her own way.

I have to admit, I was really excited about this novel. It’s all I’ve been able to talk about when someone mentions the word “book” to me. I was looking forward to the greek mythology, I was looking forward to the witch, I was looking forward to all of it. I think it would have been impossible to live up tot he hype I have managed to build up in my head. It is a good novel, but not the one I was expecting. I couldn’t really tell you what I was expecting though, I just know this novel was a bit too…ordinary for me. It is a good novel, pitching Circe as a victim of circumstance who chooses her own way to carve her world, rather than as a vengeful, heartless goddess that laughs at the plight of mortals. This Circe is fascinated by mortals, loves them and idolises them.

“You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.”
Circe – Madeline Miller

The problem with immortality is that nothing happens quickly, and there isn’t much risk. In Circe, there are swathes of introspection where nothing really happens. The action takes place in short sections before the island returns to peace again. There were parts where my mind wandered a little further from the shore, but close enough to see if anything exciting was about to happen. I found it hard to get into, and as I wasn’t feeling overly swell while reading it, I had to get up and take breaks while reading – which is unusual for me, I must confess (I’m a self-professed binge reader).

“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”
Circe – Madeline Miller

did like that Circe is fiercely independent – but at the same time, so much of what happens in the book is defined by her relationship with men – her father, her brother, Hermes, Deadlus, Odysseus ect. Her reasoning for turning men into swine is because of the acts they commit against her, thinking her helpless. Her entire life becomes defined by the men around her, even though she is independent within her gilded cage. The women are twisted – her mother, her sister Pasiphae. I have to admit, I did like Pasiphae and her barbs. It got to the point where it felt like her lovers were idealised (except Hermes – he’s just an ass), all other men were just sacks of stupid and women were sharp and cruel and out to hurt you. So, I suppose as Circe got more cynical about gods and mortals, it becomes more “I assume everyone is out to get me”. I suppose it got a bit annoying, that in this book about female independence, so much of it is about men.

“The truth is, men make terrible pigs.”
Circe – Madeline Miller

I was really really looking forward to Circe. In practice, I feel like it fell short of expectations, but I enjoyed it and the cover is absolutely freaking gorgeous. I probably wouldn’t recommend it as passionately as I have been anticipating it, but it was a fairly good read, and like I said, it wouldn’t look out of place on any shelf at all. 

Circe can be bought at any decent bookshop – it’s published by Bloomsbury and it’s just one of the most gorgeous books I have seen in a good long while. Also, check me out! Reading a new release within a week of it coming out?! That’s just insane. 

If you’re read Circe – do you agree with my assessment? Do you love it, hate it, mildly irritated by it? 



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