Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

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Madeline Miller voices the dangerously seductive villain, Circe, in a powerful retelling of The Odyssey. Grounded in a celebration of male heroism and female passivity, the classic epic tale is unearthed from its chauvinistic roots as Miller presents us with a strong heroine.

Known in Greek mythology as the temptress who lures men in and transforms them into pigs, Circe is a mere obstacle on the heroic road to victory. Miller’s fascinating and vivid illustration of Circe’s life breaks her silence and allows her voice to revisit the story and reveal its flaws.Spanning thousands of years, the tale both precedes and succeeds Odysseus’ story without sacrificing intricate detail and moments of deep reflection.

The tale begins at Circe’s birth, yet the innocence and joys of childhood are soon disrupted at the discovery of her witchcraft abilities. Posing a threat to the gods and her parents, she is immediately labelled as an outcast and banished by her father to the island of Aiaia. Defenseless and stuck in solitude, Circe is left to explore the possibilities of witchcraft. Spells and potions become a necessary weapon in a world where patriarchal forces continue to seize control of her narrative. Encounters with Odysseus himself then force Circe to deal with love and loss in ways that ground her back in reality and make this mystical tale something to be truly empathised with.

The novel is both a powerful feminist response to Homer and a sensational reanimation of an age-old classic.I loved being transported into this mythical world full of splendor and intrigue, with a complex and captivating female at its centre. Impressively, Circeblends all the fancies of mythology with a timeless social commentary on power and the misplaced fear of it when in female hands.

While I would certainly recommend the book to fans of mythology, readers unfamiliar with the original tale should not shy away. Circe goes far beyond the simple ‘spin-off’ genre and stands alone as an astonishing story of female strength in a man’s world. Enchanting and enlightening, it most definitely deserves a place on your reading list.

You can purchase the book here.

Words by Faye Matthews.

Picture by Sophie Wilson.

 

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