Circe by Madeline Miller started and ended with love. Circe existed within the absence of love and she was always longing for it. She was a hawk surrounded by a pit full of vipers with no way to fly away from them. Until her jealousy takes over and her guilt causes her to leave the place she had known all of her life. She spent so much of her life exiled before she finally took charge and went for what she wanted.
One of the great aspects of the novel is the choice that Madeline made to tell the story in first person. I feel as if this can either be a hit or a miss with novels, but it really worked in this particular instance. I truly felt like I was in her mind, I railed with her, felt her pain, her joy, and more. The moment she felt the most real was when she woke up to find her lion companion dead next to her. Can we definitely agree that she was so Circe’s familiar?
Circe was different from the moment she was born and when all she wanted was to be loved and included by her family, she was ignored. She spent many days at her father’s feet just hoping to be seen as something other than the unwanted child.
Her rebellion took a long time to come to fruition. She started small with the tiny moment with Prometheus and giving him the nectar. She held onto that memory for the longest time. This was her defining moment that made her different from the rest of her cruel siblings. The other was her very interest in mortals and how she viewed them compared to all of the other gods.
She raises her youngest brother Aeetes, who unknowingly would become one of the worst of her siblings, until he decides he doesn’t need her anymore. His decision based on the fact that she has shown no sign of the witchcraft that held their blood. It would take her a long time before she could leave behind all of her family. Aeetes and Helios would be the longest hold outs for Circe.
Her difference became a trait she held onto especially once she discovered her power in what would become known as witchcraft. The first time she uses her witchcraft, it is to transform Glaucus from a mortal into a god. It also because of Glaucus that she turns to vengeance and turn his love interest into a vicious sea monster. Her guilt causes her to confess to her father Helios and then she is exiled.
Her island, Aiaia, was the place that she really began to find herself. I enjoyed this section the most even when the wayward daughters began to show up on her island and she felt like she had never left her father’s home. I feel that I should put a warning in here that there is a scene in which Circe is raped, but it is very subtle and not graphic. After this moment, she begins to follow her siblings where she would read each sailor that would land on her island, and if they were unworthy she transformed them into pigs. Until the moment Hermes told her had been predicted, and Odysseus arrived on her island.
The biggest section of the book involves her moments with Odysseus. She transforms his men into pigs, but he convinces her to turn them back, and then their relationship began. She hid most of herself from Odysseus, but he did not hide as much as her. Yet he eventually had to leave unknowingly leaving behind a son, Telegonus. Then the biggest rebellion of her life began.
She had already defied gods, but she would defy one of the biggest one to protect her son. When it came apparent that someone was interfering with the birth of her son, she took it into her own hands, cutting him out of her body. Unnatural events kept happening to her son where he almost died many times. She went to the pool to find out who it was and eventually found out Athena did not want him to be born. Circe would begin a 16 year continuous spell to protect him, but he would eventually want to leave.
He would leave and accidentally kill his father with the spear Circe had taken from Trygon. It would bring Odysseus’ wife Penelope and his son Telemachus to the island. They defied Athena for a while before they could no longer and her offer of a kingdom of their own. Telemachus turns down the offer and Telegonus took it.
I could tell that they were hinting at a romance between Circe and Telemachus and that did come to fruition. It was the romance that was not written a lot about. I felt the connection between her and Daedalus and even Odysseus more than I did Telemachus. Yet it was Telemachus that she would try to give up her godhood.
I did feel a bit unsatisfied with the ending, but at the same time it was pretty open ended. She saw a future, but that did not mean that when she drank that it actually happened. Though she does have some drop of prophecy in her blood somewhere.
Overall, I would give this book 3.5/5 stars. There was a part in the end where Circe states that the gods are already dead because they are never changing. She on the other hand was always changing. I felt that this was also a good theme of this book. Let me know in the comments what your favorite Greek mythology book is.