Circe by Madeline Miller

She’s called a goddess. But, the frills and fancies that go with it don’t seem to apply to her. She has no presence that strikes awe or powers that astound; she even sounds like a mortal and lives as one. But, one day she discovers that there’s much more to her than just her divine monikers.

I must confess that I’m a Greek mythology noob. Apart from reading the Iliad and Odyssey for school and random Wikipedia articles a very long time ago, I don’t know much to identify the characters in the book as other than anything but what Miller says they are.

That was kind of refreshing in a way. No preconceived notions interfered with her interpretation of the mythology and I finished the book in a day. These days, since such books are rare, I sincerely appreciated the find.

Circe made for a compelling character to follow. She was different from her peers (of course), which provided an outsider perspective of what should be an insider’s story. Watching her grow up from a child desperate for love to an adult desperate for love was difficult to read; because she never really changes. She still relies on her people, her father, her family despite their repeated betrayals. There were so many times when I wanted to scream at her, shake her and say nobody’s coming, save yourself!

Furthermore, the book is divided into parts which are more or less dictated by the love interest of the day. I wished that could’ve been done differently. I wished it was more focused on her development into a self-assured God or witch or whatever she wanted to be. But, it took such a long time that it almost felt too long. But, the thing is, that’s how life rolls, you know.

While coming of age stories where the journey is always upward towards the heroine becoming even more heroic is always admirable, in life, every step forward is usually followed by at least two steps backward. After all, it’s very difficult to give up your personality and adopt an all-new, improved persona. It’s human tendency to fall back on what you know.

It’s that realism that made it so difficult to read and yet, so compelling. You wanted to know how she would fall. And the fact that she’s an immortal, making time immaterial, just added to that sense of impending doom; because when you have all the time in the world, you had to fall sometime and you also had to get up sometime.

I think that’s what Miller did best- establishing that mythological universe in such an authentic way as to suck you in. Everytime I was interrupted in my reading (which my family did extraordinarily well), I felt like I was straddling two worlds and I couldn’t wait to go back into the one I kept getting pulled away from.

BOTTOMLINE: Read it. It’s an…I’m hesitant to say amazing, but it is, in a way, an amazing read. Also, if you have a soft spot for Ulysses, I think you might have something in common with the author. So, either which way, at the end of the day, you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Reading!

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