This book blew my mind.
I am a huge fan of lyrical, descriptive novels. My bread and butter are books that have world-building, even if the world is our own planet. I find that world-building is what makes a novel memorable and something worth returning to time and time again. This novel, which is set in the age of Greek gods and goddesses, has the most wonderful world-building that makes you, as a reader, feel entirely immersed in Circe’s world and puts you right on the front line with her.
Circe is the daughter of the god Helios and her mother, who is a nymph. While most children of nymphs are beautiful and have pleasant voices, Circe has neither of those things. Bullied through most of her adolescence, she develops an interest in why the rules exist and why it’s so bad to associate with mortals. After using powers, she wasn’t aware she had to turn her crush, a mortal fisherman, into a demigod, she is banished to an isolated island as its only inhabitant.
Circe’s story moves onward from there as she settles into her island and spends thousands of years existing there, only visited on occasion. Because of this, the reader gets to experience her personal growth over time and her attempts at relationships. Circe is a strong-willed character who is shaped by the environment around her. While most of the book takes place on the singular island, Miller is able to establish a good pace by having famous mythological characters pop in and out of Circe’s life.
Circe is a woman who, despite being a witch with godlike powers, is relatable to many women. When she has a child she resents her life, resents the pain she has to endure, and in general, resents her child for a while. That being said, when his life is threatened, she is willing to put her own on the line to protect him, which displays the growth she’s undergone and the fact that you can be mad or resentful of a period of your life while still loving the outcome unconditionally. Many women can relate to the overall themes of this book, and it’s a surprisingly feminist novel despite it being based in Greek Mythology, which tends to not be kind to women.
All in all, this book is fantastic. An automatic five stars from me, and I hope Miller’s next dive into mythology involves Penelope. She appears in the latter half of this novel and her entire character is fascinating to me!
Author: Madeline Miller
Three Descriptors: Complex, Character Driven, Atmospheric
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