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Circe (2018)

by Madeline Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,0663551,079 (4.28)519
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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 346 (next | show all)
Star and a half for pretty descriptions. Various reviewers all summarized this book wildly differently. Finally, someone summarized it in a way that made me want to check it out. The inside cover seems to purport the book as a suspense thriller. It is in fact a romance spanning centuries, with Circe sleeping with various men and barely describing it. The suspense shows in the last quarter of the book over something really stupid, with no buildup and there's nothing to support or maintain it. I had a vague idea of who Circe was before reading this. I was really into minor Greek gods in middle school, plus a few major ones, and enjoy exploring knowledge about them still. None of the ones I was interested in are mentioned at all in this novel. Helios is a Greek sun god. Selene is his sister, a moon goddess. She's mentioned a couple of times here. You know who's not? THEIR SISTER EOS, THE GREEK GODDESS OF DAWN AND MOTHER OF THE FOUR WINDS, WHO -ARE- MENTIONED. Flames! Flames on the side of my face! Dishonor! Dishonor on you! Dishonor on your cow! And there's several mentions of the Underworld, BUT NONE OF HEKATE. You know, Underworld goddess, and -goddess of witchcraft- among many other things. I was furious when the retelling "Solstice" by PJ Hoover omitted her, and am angry now for multiple reasons. Can't have her in the story, ooh no, because this is a story about a character that the author alternately describes as a nymph, goddess, or demigod. I feel like this should have had very different character choices in it.

And the suspense factor is that a famous god is going to kill her kid. Total fakeout: it is in fact just two women sniping at each other. I feel cheated. And I'm sorry, Circe, but you're not going to a god who has everything they could ever need, whereas you are widely hated and no one will help you. Of course I'm wrong, because you're a Mary Sue. Plus, your Mother Goddessing (ha ha, I made a joke. Thanks to Das_sporking for the term) only furthers this. While you describe things beautifully, you whine a lot. I didn't care about your kid, the fact that your family hates you, and I don't care about you. The much-hyped battle between Circe and the goddess goes on for two seconds. The goddess is quickly replaced with Odysseus' wife, with whom Circe essentially squabbles for over twenty pages. Then they become friends and it's boring.

Near the end of the novel, Circe thinks to herself that it's strange to have constant company in the form of Odysseus' wife and son. Did she forget all those years when nymphs and sailors packed her house and roamed her island? I didn't. There's a boring sea battle and then some incest. Maybe not; I'm not entirely clear on how they're related. The book ends with a boring, cliche HEA. I was underwhelmed by this book and wanted the author to make different choices. ( )
  iszevthere | Jun 28, 2022 |
This is an excellent telling of Circe's story - every bit as good as Margaret Atwoodd's telling of the story of Penelope in her "Penelopiad".

I bought this just after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade with the Dobbs decision (2022), so the gender politics (here, set in the realm of ancient Greek myth) feels particularly appropriate. ( )
  Eric_Riley | Jun 28, 2022 |
The story of Circe, as told in the Greek myths is an interesting one, so I was keen to see it explored further. Alas, this book was not the one to deliver that. The characters are wooden, Circe dull and the gods far too human. The characters described are already well known and described with greater superiority and eloquence in Homer, Apollodorus and Hesiod. If those writers have taught us anything about the character of the Greek pantheon it is that they are elemental, childish even. From beginning to end thus book failed to deliver in either a new perspective or in believable characters. Very disappointing, considering the grandeur of the original texts. ( )
  restimson | Jun 22, 2022 |
wahHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh (← me weeping and wailing)

seriously this is so good. i think what makes me like this book even more is that it does a lot of things i don't necessarily like but somehow here they were carried off to perfection. it's the artist, after all, not the art. and the imprint of masterful crafting is all over this book. it's so easy to read in the sense that it all just flows. it takes place over so many thousands of years that i felt like i'd been reading it forever, when in fact it had been a little over a week. very clever and good. and also, all the characters are so COMPLICATED in a really special way. the character work is just extraordinary, a synthesis of myth and modernity. and i am very emotional at the ending, especially about penelope and telemachus. wow. loved it. ( )
  i. | Jun 18, 2022 |
I absolutely loved this book ! Madeline Miller masterfully wove various stories from The Odyssey and presented them through the eyes of the exiled golden goddess - Circe.
The book showcases many important themes such as Morality , Fragility and Fulfillment and more importantly , Women , Power and Misogyny.
It was an eye opening look into the role of women ( most importantly nymphs and mortals ) in ancient Greek tales.
Cannot wait to read more by Madeline Miller
I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands. ( )
  kritieeee | Jun 16, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 346 (next | show all)
“Circe” will surely delight readers new to the witch’s stories as it will many who remember her role in the Greek myths of their childhood: Like a good children’s book, it engrosses and races along at a clip, eliciting excitement and emotion along the way.
 
Miller has taken the familiar materials of character, and wrought some satisfying turns of her own.
 
[W]hat elevates Circe is Miller’s luminous prose, which is both enormously readable and evocative, and the way in which she depicts the gulf between gods and mortals.
 
Written in prose that ripples with a gleaming hyperbole befitting the epic nature of the source material, there is nothing inaccessible or antiquated about either Circe or her adventures.
 
The character of Circe only occupies a few dozen lines of [the Odyssey], but Miller extracts worlds of meaning from Homer's short phrases.
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Madeline Millerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ciani, Maria GraziaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magrì, MarinellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Staehle, WillCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weeks, PerditaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Nathaniel
νόστος
First words
When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.
Quotations
“A happy man is too occupied with his life. He thinks he is beholden to no one. But make him shiver, kill his wife, cripple his child, then you will hear from him. He will starve his family for a month to buy you a pure-white yearling calf. If he can afford it, he will buy you a hundred.” “But surely,” I said, “you have to reward him eventually. Otherwise, he will stop offering.” “Oh, you would be surprised how long he will go on. But yes, in the end, it’s best to give him something. Then he will be happy again. And you can start over.”
This was how mortals found fame, I thought. Through practice and diligence, tending their skills like gardens until they glowed beneath the sun. But gods are born of ichor and nectar, their excellences already bursting from their fingertips. So they find their fame by proving what they can mar: destroying cities, starting wars, breeding plagues and monsters. All that smoke and savor rising so delicately from our altars. It leaves only ash behind.
Timidity creates nothing.
But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.
As it turned out, I did kill pigs that night after all.
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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.

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Book description
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. Amazon
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