Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Fiction
Year of publication: 2018
“In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child….
…Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology….
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone…”
My rating: 3 / 5
My take :
I have a mixed-bag feeling about “CIRCE“.
I nurture a not-so-keen (but it is there) interest in “retelling” mythology genre.
The mythological divinities are quite cruel- be it the Olympians, Titans from faraway Greece or our very home-grown ones.
And I get “meh” feeling after reading about cruel people.
Over the years, I’ve read only a handful from this genre.
“CIRCE” hangs somewhere between over-hyped “The Red Tent” and near-brilliant “Palace of Illusion“.
i) Madeline Miller’s words evoke imagery.
She humanized “Circe“- the half-nymph-half-goddess, the banished sorceress in such a way that it felt, Circe is my girl-next-door with trillion times more sass.
ii) It should be renamed as “The dummies guide for Greek mythology“. Before that, I read about Greek mythology in bits and pieces- Wikipedia being the main source.
“CIRCE” taught me:
a) the distinction between Olympians and Titans
b) that bestiality was rampant in Greek mythology and we shouldn’t be gobsmacked by the zoophilic carvings on various Indian temples
c) a quick rundown on Odyssey
d) there was a god called Hermes.
Blimey, in all these years, I knew that Hermes is a high-fashion luxury brand.
iii) Circe kindles empathy.
Being a backbencher throughout, I could feel the way she felt amidst her sharper, more talented siblings/cousins in the great hall of Helios.
She was exiled in the island of Aiaia and expected to be wilted there.
But the way she dealt with life’s curve balls, should make her the poster-girl of
“When life gives you lemon…”
iv) Circe loved mortals, had sex with them, borne their children and did the character-assessment of the valiant ones in a non-partial way. Especially with Odysseus– the legend of Odyssey.
Heck, she didn’t even spare her son as well– being a doting mother she was.
v) This book reminds the joint family of Indian set-up-
a) the too-hard-to-please father
b) gossipy uncles
c) sibling rivalry
d) mother who plays favoritism
e) the heroic lover-turns-douche-bag
f) the plight of single mothers etc.
v) It has one of the most poignant opening lines I’ve ever read-
“When I was born, the word for what I was did not exist.”
vi) I quite liked the idea of turning ‘wayward’ men into swines.
i) The book dragged in-between somewhere.
Circe led a solitary life in her exile and it’s given that the daily drudgery would bore anyone in her place into death- yes, even if it was mastering witch-craft.
So like Circe, I, too, felt exasperated reading about her day-to-day activities –
- pounding, grinding, mixing herbs,
- turning men-into-pigs,
- roaming around the island,
- tending her new born as a single parent etc.
ii) I wish the character of Penelope could be more fleshed-out. She had an interesting arc.
iii) I wanted to know more of Scylla. She was a nymph-cursed- to- become a monster- just because she was full of vanity!
And this has been my pet peeve for the retelling of mythology. I want to know more about the banished, the outcast, the misfits- Medusa, Kali, Ammit.
Those who don’t have a beautiful pair of eyes, milky-white skin and auburn hair.
Now, don’t tell me
“Why don’t you write one yourself?”
My other book reviews
What’s your favorite book about mythology? Do share with me.