An alum of Brown University where she did her undergrad and graduate studies in Classics, Madeline has written her second novel following The Song of Achilles, a Times best seller and winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012. Circe was an instant best seller 2018, gaining several awards.
Visit the Madeline Miller’s website here!
Born the daughter of Perse and Helios, the sun god, Circe is the goddess of witchcraft and not just any ordinary femme fatale. Looked down upon with contempt by her family, her powers frighten even the mighty Zeus, leading her father to send her away to the island of Aiaia.
There, her path crosses with gods and heroes of greek mythology–the Minotaur of Crete, the inventor Daedaelus and his son Icarus, and the great hero of the Odessey himself. She makes powerful friends as well as enemies along the way, as Miller ventures us further in her female driven epic.
“Not every god need be the same.”Prometheus telling Circe why he would bring on Zeus and the other gods’ wrath helping mortals
Her eyes a golden yellow like a hawk, her namesake, Circe’s story is one of womanhood, the struggle for identity and purpose in a world where women, of gods or men, are objects at the mercy of a patriarchal society.
The language and poetry of Miller’s words fit as perfectly on the page as they do painted on the sides of a greek vase or woven onto a great tapestry, no doubt a result of her own years of research and study on the very subject.
But there are many themes that bleed over from ancient greek mythology and history that make this story stand out to the modern reader.
It was my first lesson. Beneath the smooth, familiar face of things is another that waits to tear the world in two.Circe on her the Titan god’s veiled lust for war
Monsters also play an important role within the novel, a source of entertainment for the gods and a dangerous threat that Circe attempts to protect mortals from. They are seen as a delight to the gods and a means for them to continue to extract worship and tribute from mortals and kings.
Miller references how much the gods delight and approve of the existence of these dangerous beasts, providing an impetus to the mortals that they threaten to seek favor and give ever greater tribute to the gods. In our own society, I see the role of the modern day monster in our social and political body politic. They are the creatures that parties and constituencies manufacture to rile up their base and attack their enemies.
A student of classical mythology and history, Madeline Miller gives us into a deep, challenging perspective of Greek mythology and figures in Circe.
Smart, resourceful, resilient, graceful–there are plenty of words that could approximate what Circe represents as a female protagonist, but none as perfect as enchanting.
Transformation–one of the greater powers within Circe’s arsenal–plays an important thematic role in the telling of the story. Outside of the classic arc of the hero’s journey, transformation applies to more than our enchanting protagonist. And in the context of the novel, it means more than just turning men into pigs–it is the power to reveal and punish men for their true nature.
“…Even the most beautiful nymph is largely useless, and an ugly one one would be nothing, less than nothing…
But a monster…she always has a place. She may have all the glory her teeth can snatch. She will not be loved for it, but she will not be constrained either…”Aeëtes speaking of monsters
Circe is a phenomenal read, start to beginning. It was one of the few books where I have actively fought against the call of Hypnos, goddess of sleep, on multiple occasions. A magical, intoxicating, thrilling journey, I am going to go ahead and set this book as my own personal standard for fantasy/magical realism: 5/5 stars.
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