A review of Circe, by Madeline Miller

‘But in a solitary life there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me’

I had heard great things about Circe through various book review blogs and websites, however it completely surpassed my expectations. The book revolves around the main character, Circe, the daughter of Ancient Greek titans. Circe does not possess the same power as her siblings and forefathers; the book details her struggle between the person she is meant to be according to the standards of her father and family, and her identity as a ‘witch’. Circe, after betraying her fathers wishes, is banished to an island she is not allowed to leave. We see circe develop and grow to understand her new environment and face challenges, such as other Gods and abusive pirates that come to her island. Circe’s evolution to a powerful, feared God is an interesting take on traditionally patriarchal Greek stories of female Gods.

I loved this book! The way that Greek Mythology was interweaved into the plot was seamless; traditional Greek stories, such as Prometheus and the ‘Hydra’, were incorporated in a new and refreshing way with a new outlook on age old stories, offering a different perspective. The book presented Circe as less than the ‘typical’ beauty standard held in literature for female Gods. She is described as ‘scrawny’ and ‘bird-like’ in her features, a far-cry from descriptions of Aphrodite or Athena in literature, who are always flawless and obviously beautiful. Miller presented Circe as immature and abused at the start of the novel, which made her growth and eventual maturity at the end of the novel even more enjoyable. This was also something I found made the book stand apart from other Young Adult fiction, where the characters are morally good and objectively suited to a white, western beauty standards.  

The writing of this novel was also something I really enjoyed whilst reading this book. Miller writes with such eloquence and flow, which enhanced the mystic nature of the novel. The book also had multiple stand out moments, where the protagonist defeats her own fears and villains from the start of the novel.  

‘I thought, I cannot bare this moment any longer. Then child, make another’.

This book was most definitely a ‘female version’ of traditional Greek stories, which I found to be very interesting. I would recommend this book especially to young women readers.