Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Fun fact about me – I grew up obsessed with Greek mythology. I came *this* close to attending Bristol University for Classical Studies and in middle school, I wrote a book about a teenage girl who was magically transported back in time and mistaken for Helen of Troy (no, it will never see the light of day). Miller’s writing is so beautiful and she has a way of telling these iconic stories through a modern lens while maintaining the integrity of the original myths. I devoured Song of Achilles earlier this year (highly recommend!!!) and Circe did not disappoint either.
Circe is written as a character that readers will truly love – despite her divinity, she is relatable, raw, and narrates with a refreshingly feminist perspective on a story that is rooted in patriarchy. If you are familiar with Circe in other forms of media and literature, you will know she is normally cast in a more villainous role (Percy Jackson, anyone?). Miller subverts normative views of female characters in Greek mythology, specifically using them as foils to their well-known male counterparts. You see this with Miller’s approach towards Medea and Jason, Pasiphae and Minos, and Penelope and Odysseus – all relationships in which the female has traditionally been more subjugated. In Circe, however, these characters are autonomous, and even dangerous. Conversely, heroes such as Jason and Odysseus are exposed for their hubris, and are characterized as weak-minded men riding on the will of the Gods. Miller does not let her unique lens stand in isolation either – through direct references to the Bards’ songs in moments reminiscent of metanarrative work (and epic poetry), Miller allows Circe to acknowledge and challenge normalized views on her story.
In addition to being a celebration of feminism, the book itself is just so. well. written. The imagery is golden, dreamy, and just divine (pun intended). Circe’s voice is so well developed and grows naturally from a place of insecurity to power. Her draw towards humans allows Miller to also infuse this story with an appreciation for humanity – and in fact mortality – as readers continually confront notions of time and transient existence. There are a few moments when it felt like a plot line was dragging on a little – but those moments were vastly outweighed by the poignancy of the story.
Circe offers something to every reader, whether you are drawn to the book due to an existing fascination with mythology, classical literature, or just pure curiosity. And I’ll say it again – if you have not read Song of Achilles, that’s a must-read as well. Let me know if you have read either of Miller’s works and what you think!