Circe by Madeline Miller
Growing up, my local Library had a set of books about Greek and Roman mythology. I remember they were blue and illustrated, and I probably checked them out a dozen times each. Can't tell you the author or publisher, but they were blue. I have always found Greek mythology fascinating. How anyone could keep that many Goddesses, Gods, Demigods, Titans, Olympians, etc. straight is beyond me. The way all the main players are intertwined by birth or marriage and how they love and hate each other creates for a never ending line of stories.
Circe by Madeline Miller is about Circe, daughter of the God Helios and the Nymph Perse, and how she becomes one of the first witches. Circe tells her story from the beginning, of how as a child she was very different from her siblings. Told from the very beginning that she is ugly and told to never speak, we learn Circe looks and sounds human. With no obvious power, it takes years for Circe to discover that her powers lay in witchcraft. After she transforms a childhood enemy into a horrific monster, Zeus banishes her to an island to live her immortal life in exile.
Circe, now completely alone on her island, must learn to provide for and protect herself. Devoting her time to spells and potions allows her to protect herself from the unwanted attentions of sailors who find themselves stranded on her shores.
I loved how she turned the sailors into pigs. Literal pigs. Then she kept them in a pigsty.
She also has to protect herself from the island's creatures. Early on, she encounters a wild boar. "His pig-eyes said: I can break a hundred youths and send their bodies back to wailing mothers. I will tear your entrails and eat them for my lunch. I fixed my gaze on his. 'Try,' I said."
When the boar wanders away, CIrce leaves us with this: "I tell you, for all my spells, that was the first time I truly felt myself a witch."
I think Try would make for a great tattoo...
But Circe isn’t alone for long. She finds herself surrounded by the disgraced daughters of kings. She meets the famed Daedalus before he meets his fate with his son Icarus. Odysseus stays on her island for nearly year and leaves behind the most precious gift, a son that he won’t know of for nearly 20 years.
Within Circe, we get all the best of Greek mythology: drama, heartache, deception, and fantastical creatures. Circe is sensitive by nature and becomes strong by circumstance. Miller takes us on an incredible journey to watch Circe grow into her craft. Also, watching Circe really struggle at motherhood was completely relatable.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was incredible and the pacing was fast enough to keep your interest.
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Circe by Madeline Miller is available now from LIttle, Brown.