Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bewitched by Madeline Miller's Circe

Madeline Miller's new novel Circe was mesmerizing. I did not want to stop reading! It was unexpected, this absorption in a book about a Greek mythic figure.

I had read the Greek Myths (Robert Graves's two volumes!) and Homer and Virgil--all the classics-- long ago in high school and college. I knew Circe from these tales.

But Miller's book is more than a retelling of the myths. Circe comes alive in these pages. And if, yes, the characters are Titans and Olympians and heroes, it took no trouble for my suspension of belief to accept them. Perhaps due to the prevalence of magic and witches and superhuman power in literature and film today. But I credit Miller's amazing writing.

Circe's world holds to a tenuous peace between the powerful Titans and the upstart Olympians. These gods are vengeful and imperious, all-powerful and eternal. She is the daughter of Helios, a golden-eyed child overlooked and dismissed, her very voice offensive to the gods.

She has been fascinated by mortal humans ever since Prometheus gave them fire, earning the punishment of eternal torment. Secretly, she brings the bound Prometheus a cup of nectar. Circe the dejected is also a girl of will and defiance.

She also makes many mistakes.

She discovers her gift for witchcraft, the use of herbs and will to cause transformation. She employs her power to transform the mortal man she loves. But he loves another and Circe transforms her rival Scylla into her true form--a man-eating multi-armed monster. The gods punish Circle by exiling her to a deserted island.

On her island, Circe spends centuries perfecting her craft with herbs, her friends the wild beasts and the occasional exiled nymph. She is visited by the gossip Hermes who becomes her lover, and the inventive Daedalus who gifts her a magnificent loom. Later, Daedalus needs her to help him entrap her sister's monstrous child, the Minotaur.

Sailors sometimes land on her shore; she learned not to trust them and turns them into swine. Then arrives the weary Odysseus; his enemy Athena has beset his journey home from the Trojan War with cruel trials. He stays with Circe for a year, changing her life forever.

I need to read Miller's previous book The Song of Achilles! I already have it on my Kindle. She is a marvelous story teller.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

by Madeline Miller
Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date 10 Apr 2018
ISBN: 9780316556347
PRICE: $27.00 (USD)

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