Circe by Madeline Miller: A Rambling

“Beneath my feet were the bones of a thousand years. I thought: I can not bear this world a moment longer.

Then, child, make another.”

_________________

A good writer is an even better reader.

This is a truth well known by all, and one that I’ve been dodging since I started this blog.

In elementary school, I devoured books like fire, and that pace only picked up as I went through middle school.

But in high school it lacked in priority and I fell behind.

Now that I have a gap year and a bunch of time to fill it, I can focus on things that used to matter to me most.

The fictional worlds of brilliant minds.

In my journey back to those places made of fiction , I discovered in its path, Circe by Madeline Miller.

Madeline Miller is a well-known name amongst her target audience, with her main success being named as The Song Of Achilles, a book I have yet to read, or add to the list.

(My TBR is already miles long.)

Much like The Song Of Achilles (at least, I’m assuming much like The Song Of Achilles), it is a fictional retelling of the story of great mythological figure, Circe.

The following is the blurb from the book, to give you a better idea of the story I’m about to obsess over:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child – not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power – the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

This was the book I re-entered Young-Adult Fiction “Society“ with, which was the best mistake in the world.

The best, because it was a beautifully eloquent book with the most vivid descriptions I’ve experienced so far. The book had a warm, welcoming feeling, with the tiniest grit of salt and sea. Both sides of those atmospheres are created by the tone of reflection we get from the narrator, who happens to be Circe, herself.

The entire book seems to be told from her vantage point of aged wisdom, her joyful memories of the men and women she adored, the bitter remarks against her youthful stupidity or the actions of her wrong-doers, all culminating to the comforting feeling that this is a story being told directly to me by Circe, on the beaches of Aiaia, a bonfire roaring in front of us, the salty sea raging against the rocks and sands of shore behind us.

Her life being centuries long, her faults and her triumphs feel as if they last just as long, and each journey that leads her to or away from those conclusions feel like trips I’ve taken with her.

At the beginning of the book, I lagged. Immensely. It took me two whole months to read, because I simply lacked the routine of reading.

It took me a long time to learn her ways.

The subtle recognition of self, the deepest desires to be loved, to be cherished.

The vicious need to be mortal, and to feel those pains, those aches, those pleasures.

But when I did, I learned to appreciate them, and love her more for it.

Another thing that made me fall in love with this book was the humanization of the other Titan and Olympian characters we often only ever here of and never hear from.

The devotion of Daedalus to his son Icarus, the lack of grace and greatness in Odysseus, the soft nature and great strength in hers and his sons, Telemachus and Telegonus.

I loved how they were used for her growth, how they complimented her or brought out her cleverness, her craft, her faith.

The last thing I’ll say, before this goes in for years, was how much I loved Circe.

I loved her vulnerability, in her insecurity around family and her love for mortals, and the strength she found within it. I loved her dedication to her curiosity and craft, how what she had not known lied within her, became her one true purpose and power. How she often, after her teenage afflictions, used them for good.

And that the magical and the maternal was not her only moral, not her only strength, but attached to the morals and strengths that she had. True growth.

By the end, she felt like a funny stranger I’d met on the shore of a magic village, who, when I asked after her the next morning, no one seemed to remember.

She had come for a night to relay her life, to pass on the wisdom of immortal life on mortal longing.

The most purposeful magic.

I, with all my heart, recommend you read this beautiful book.

(Maybe, read Song of Achilles first, though. There was lots of references to the story in there!)

It’s a 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟/5, and a must read!

Thank you for your wisdom, Circe. And for bringing it to the page, Madeline Miller.

Until next time!

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