Circe by Madeline Miller

Ann Patchett calls Madeline Miller’s new novel ‘an epic spanning thousands of years that’s also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner’. Circe definitely had me reading into the early hours of the morning, just like with Miller’s Orange Prize-winning novel, The Song of Achilles. Once again she has created an unforgettable set of vivid characters based on ancient myths and legends.

You may know our protagonist Circe from her role in the famous Homeric poem, The Odyssey, but here she is your main focus. You delve deep into the trials and triumphs of her life, beginning in the halls of her father, the Titan, Helios, the Greek personification of the Sun.

Circe is shunned and tormented by nymphs, gods and titans alike, all because she is different; she does not have the strengths, looks, nor voice of divinity. But what she does discover, with the help of a mortal, and love, is her own new power – witchcraft. In this discovery lies her freedom and exile combined when a fearful Zeus banishes her to a remote island called Aiaia, there she will forge her skills with the help of nature.

Fate will bring many to her door over the thousands of years she abides there, and mix their destinies with her story: Ariadne and the Minotaur, crafty Daedalus and his fated son Icarus, Medea, Jason and that Golden Fleece, and let us not forget Odysseus, nor Athena. All will play their part in the epic that is Circe’s tale, as she stands alone, an indomitable woman.

Circe is a character that I felt was a modern feminist from an ancient time, fighting her way through a man’s, or god’s, world. An inspiration to persevere, fight and endure even if all seems lost and all against you. I could not turn away from this adventure, even when the last page was done, Circe continued to linger in my thoughts days after.

Claire Atherfold is part of the online Readings team.

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Madeline Miller

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