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Circe (2018)

by Madeline Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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11,971469529 (4.27)579
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)
2023 (28)
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» See also 579 mentions

English (447)  Italian (5)  Spanish (3)  German (2)  Hungarian (2)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  All languages (462)
Showing 1-5 of 447 (next | show all)
The Classical spin-offs I’ve read so far are by fine, intelligent writers. I'm thinking of David Malouf's [b:Ransom|6460814|Ransom|David Malouf|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1241983288l/6460814._SY75_.jpg|6651239] and Mary Renault's [b:The King Must Die|39359728|The King Must Die (Theseus, #1)|Mary Renault|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1521860840l/39359728._SY75_.jpg|2758229], Madeline Miller is such a writer with her intricately woven tale in an unpolluted world from the depths of our consciousness. Having enjoyed [b:The Song of Achilles|13623848|The Song of Achilles|Madeline Miller|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1357177533l/13623848._SY75_.jpg|16176791] it was time to reach for Circe. My daughter had given it to my wife to read. Inside was a lovely daughter-to-mother card; a bookmark which seeped archetypal humanity into the pages.
When I read, I sometimes turn over corners and even pencil-mark passages that prompt return reflection but with Circe I found myself so engaged with her world and its god/human relationships that now, as I look back, I bask again in the warmth of her firelit romances with Daedalus and Odysseus. Her growing attraction to Telemachus seems perfectly natural for a deity. Though Circe is a goddess, she is also a woman doing her best to find her way through the maze of the heart’s yearnings. That she is immortal makes her all women and at the same time, an individual woman with unique problems and some unique approaches to dealing with them. Miller’s style is heroic and timeless.
I walked steadily down the ocean’s shelves. Above me the tides kept up their relentless motion, but I was too deep to feel them. My eyes lit the way… At last, I landed on the sea’s lowest floor. The sand was so cold it burnt my feet. All was silent there, the water utterly still. The only light came from drifting strands of luminescence. He was wise, this god. To make his visitors travel to such a hostile place, where nothing lived but him. (p.243)

I’m at home in this world where the voices of gods can be heard as thoughts, there are speaking looks, lions and wolves are pets, and where the house cleans itself. In ancient Greek the word atheos did not mean atheist. Instead, it referred to someone the gods had abandoned. That nymphs or nature spirits inhabit and protect almost every recognisable land or sea form seems perfectly rational to me. In fact, I would notice their absence.
On my desk is my grandfather’s lamp; a sculpture of Daphne (a naiad) escaping the advances of Apollo by turning into a laurel tree. Naiads, nereids, dryads? Here’s a rough (incomplete) guide:

  • Acheloids (from the river Achelous)
  • Alseids (groves)
  • Dryads (forests) with hamadryads (trees)
  • Hydriads (water)
  • Leimoniads (meadows)
  • Meliads (ash trees)
  • Naiads (springs and rivers)
  • Napaea (valleys)
  • Nereid (the Mediterranean)
  • Oceanids (the sea)
  • Oreads (mountains)

For me, the Classical world is forever fresh. Perhaps it’s that the Ancient Greek pantheon does not distinguish between cosmic principles, anthropomorphic deities, material realities, and metaphor that it remains alive and as relevant to the urge for story telling and artistic expression as ever. Madeline Miller’s response is a delight. ( )
  simonpockley | Feb 25, 2024 |
Just about perfect.
The right end and I hardly saw it coming.
The whole fitted as perfectly as marquetry.
(*spoiler* Pippin, Candide) ( )
1 vote nillacat | Feb 16, 2024 |
To be candid, I was never a big fan of Greek mythology. I nevertheless loved this book. Circe, daughter of Helios and Perses, is exiled to an island alone because of her witchcraft -- even though her sister and two brothers are also versed in the craft and are not punished. Parts of the Odyssey (including Odysseus himself) and other myths are woven into this story, but it is told in a rich, modern prose that is eminently more palatable to 21st century readers -- and, one might argue, told with a feminist perspective. It seemed to me a retelling of familiar classical tales from the perspective of a woman who was marginalized in old iterations, both epic and intimate, subversive and fresh. ( )
  bschweiger | Feb 4, 2024 |
God that was exhausting. Didn't think I'd make it through. I am *BAFFLED* by how this was 2018 Best Fantasy Book on Goodreads. I guess I won't be following those as recommendations for what to read anymore, and this was my first attempt at that!

Recommended: NOPE
It lacked emotion, a likable main character, and at times was even lacking interest (aka.... it was dull.)

This follows the life of the goddess Circe, which seemed really exciting because she is a FASCINATING character of mythology. Unfortunately, it was written very weirdly, and it felt like she had no emotion, no strong voice, and came across almost like a documentary. I could picture David Attenborough reading this to me. (Audiobook idea? He would def make it better!)

At times it was just pages and pages of her saying "I'm bored" in a million different ways. I get that exile might be boring for an eternity, but my god, maybe you went too far with making your reader emphasize because I put the book down for a week or two and only barely managed to pick it back up! I didn't like Circe in this story. She was wildly fickle, flipping from one extreme to the other, with no consistency.

There are some events that I thought, there's no WAY this can be boring (her and the Minotaur, crossing Scylla's path, etc) and at times those parts did really suck me in. But in order to get to the Minotaur, we had days of bland sailing, looking around the woods, complaining to and about how mean her sister is. And that just really sucks the fun away.

I didn't HATE this book, but I was immensely bored by it, and disappointed by the Goodreads community, because how the heck was THIS what they thought the best fantasy book of 2018 was?! Fantasy is in a really bad state if that's true. Don't get sucked into the hype like I did, and try picking up Ben Bova's [b:The Winds of Altair|302520|The Winds of Altair|Ben Bova|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1312041451s/302520.jpg|293579] if you're looking for some real fantasy. ( )
  Jenniferforjoy | Jan 29, 2024 |
Enjoyable but not riveting. ( )
  hmonkeyreads | Jan 25, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 447 (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 (29 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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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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