Like many of you our LBF team is apart at the moment. Our book club is not only designed to bring us together through our shared love of books but also connect us with the greater online publishing community. We’ve now extended our book club timeline to every two weeks, which means we won’t be hosting our Q&A for this title until Friday 17th April, so stay tuned. Circe by Madeline Miller was Ellie Forster-Knight’s magical choice. Enjoy.
Review of Madeline Miller’s Circe by Ellie Forster-Knight
Circe by Madeline Miller is a beautiful telling of the myth surrounding the immortal daughter of Helios, the titan, and Perse, a vapid nymph. With an uninterested mother and a supposedly infallible titan as a father, Circe is left to her own devices and forced into the shadows by her more beautiful and ruthless siblings. From idolisation to understanding, Circe’s immortality allows her to grow from a naïve and graceless child to a complex and intriguing woman. Her lonely existence ensures that she quietly learns to read and understand individuals. However, I also feel that this led to a strong sense of cynicism within the young Circe, as she watches those around her act insipid and jealous.
With multiple myths woven into the fabric of her story, Miller uses these to highlight the complex nature of Circe’s personality as she overcomes new challenges. From the exciting confrontation of Trygon to the difficulty of motherhood. A significant element to Circe’s story is when she turns sailors into pigs when they land on her island. In another story, this goddess could be read as 2-dimensional and bitter; turning men into pigs could draw a writer to depict a goddess who is vicious and a misandrist. However, Miller portrays Circe as believing this to be essential protection, creating an intriguing outlook on the balance of power between genders, which I found fascinating.
Circe’s outlook changes as time continues allowing her to differentiate between essential and nonessential protection. This pivotal change happens when she meets Odysseus, “I pretended I could conceal my thoughts as well as he, I knew it was not true. He would see down my bones.” She acknowledges his ability to read her and yet does nothing. Though Circe is still guarded, this allows for an emotional vulnerability between the two characters that is beautiful in its silent understanding. This development of character continues throughout the book and is enthralling.
I fell in love with this book. It is a beautiful retelling of Circe, with stunning descriptions and a complex modern heroine. The stark contrast between the beauty of the world she resides in and the pain that she feels is poignant and all encompassing. This book is full of pain, magic and love.