Book review: Circe (Madeline Miller)

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I read Circe a few months ago, after I read many positive critics about the book on different blogs. Actually, I was very excited about the book because I have been interested in Greek and Roman mythology for a long time. I even liked the latin classes in high school.

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Book review: Circe (Madeline Miller)

What is Circe about?

Circe is written like a memoir. This is the story of the famous magician Circe, who is most famous for changing Ulysses’s crew into pigs. 

The story begins when Circe parents meet. Her father, Helios, is a titan and the god of sun. Her mother is the nymph Perse. Circe lives in her father’s castle but feels lonely. She does have a mortal voice, which sounds awful for the gods and nymphs she is living with. Her mother does not care about her. Her sister Pasiphae and her brother Perses do bully her. The only person she has a close relationship too is her little brother Aetes, whom she raises herself.

As she grows up though, her brothers and her sister leave home. Aetes becomes a own kingdom and refuses to take Circe with him. Pasiphae marries king Minos and becomes a queen. Perses travels far away, in the Orient. Circe meets a young fisher, Glaucus, and falls in love. She begins to develop her magical abilities as she changes Glaucus in a god. Unfortunately, Glaucus loses any interest in Circe when he meets the cruel but stunningly  beautiful nymph Scylla. Circe is terribly jealous and changes Scylla in a monster.

After that, Circe is punished and sent into exile on an island. There, she will develop her magical abilities and becomes the legendary enchantress of Greek mythology. Her destiny will keep meddling with other legendary figures: Prometheus, punished for giving fire to the people, Hermes, the trickster god of the Greek pantheon, the Minotaur, the son of her sister Pasiphae, Dedalus, the creator of the labyrinth, Medea, Aetes’ daughter who helped Jason in his quest and of course Ulysses himself.

My opinion about the book

I really loved this book. The writing is fantastic. You can relate well to Circe’s feelings and it is interesting to read about well-known stories from her point of view. The destiny of Circe is very inspiring. Indeed, she is a woman who was punished and sent to exile but who could find in solitude her real self and develop a power she had not known she had before. Although her siblings seem to have much more successful in life (both brothers became kings and her sister became queen), Circe’s life is much more fulfilled and satisfying than theirs.

I found it also interesting to see how interconnected the stories in the Greek mythology are. I knew the stories of the Minotaur and of Medea for instance, but I had never realized truly before reading this books that both are related to Circe. This interconnection is not artificial though, as one may believe. The author researched her subject very well. If you want to learn about mythology, this is an excellent book because the author follows really closely the original stories. I loved the way the author depicted the different mythological figures that Circe met. Not only Circe seemed to be a real person but the others too.

Other books you can read if you love mythology

  • The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller’s book about Achilles): Madeline Miller published The Song of Achilles before Circe. I have not read it yet but as I really loved Circe, I am very excited about reading this book too. 
  • The Iliad and the Odyssey: Homer’s classics are of course a must if you are interested in Greek mythology
  • The Metamorphoses (Ovid): yet another classic that you should have read if you love Greek/Roman mythology
  • Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series: The books are very fun to read and you can relate well to the different characters. Rick Riordan also wrote series about Egyptian and Nordic mythologies.

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