That is one thing gods and mortals share. When we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.Madeline Miller, Circe
Circe is the story of the Greek Goddess Circe. The novel begins with her birth, moving on to detail her family dynamics and eventual banishment. The story fashions many of the famous Greek myths through Circe’s perspective, showing how her personality hardens and she comes to become the version that is portrayed most commonly throughout many Greek myths. This is a character study of one of the most overlooked characters in Greek mythology, showing that sometimes the seemingly least important can have the largest impact.
I have to admit that I learned much from this book. I knew Circe only from her appearance in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters and was completely convinced that she was an evil witch with an unjustified vendetta against men (well, just Percy really) and didn’t really think much about her backstory. Reading this was thoroughly informative and demonstrated how she came to be perceived as an evil witch through Zeus’s own fear and the actions of the men she encountered. This novel portrayed Circe as a character that deserved sympathy and made her relatable to the readers. Much of Circe’s character development came from her relationships with famous men such as Daedalus, Odyssyeus and even Hermes. Her relationships with these men, as well as the travelers who stopped on her island shaped her into a seemingly villainous woman. The interesting thing about Circe’s character was that she was constantly building a relationship with people that would always leave, emphasizing this really intricate theme of loneliness. Despite knowing that they would leave, Circe was desperate to know of the outside world and to feel that at least one person cared that she lived. As this novel read more as a character study, the characterization was unmatched.
The major criticism I had was the inconsistent prose. The author established really early on that dialogue would mirror the formal language of Greek Gods. The Gods all addressed each other with respect and there was a certain hierarchy that existed between all of the Gods. I found that much of the dialogue mirrored how I assumed the Gods would talk if they weren’t speaking in Ancient Greek. Despite this, I found there were many times when her dialogue would switch to modern English and it was jarring. I would’ve liked to see more consistency within the dialogue. Also, I felt like there was too much lag time within the story. While I understand that many of the events that were portrayed within the book happened hundreds of years apart, I would’ve liked less time describing how the years passed especially in the later half of the book.
Overall, I think that this book was an easy read. I liked how the author tied Circe’s journey in with popular Greek myths and incorporated characters that the audience would probably know. It was a clever way of showing Greek myths in a different light. If the story hadn’t lagged in parts and had contained consistent prose, I would’ve given it a higher rating. There were just too many scenes that I found myself having to re-read because I had zoned out and that’s never a good sign in a book with a subject matter as fascinating as this.