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Circe by Madeline Miller
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Circe (2018)

by Madeline Miller

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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Update 28th Oct, 2018 - removing my rating for Circe. I may not have liked it, but to be fair this book deserves more than the 3 angry stars I gave. So no rating because I am fully aware I am in the wrong with not liking this and how psychotic I am for the reasons I don't like it.

***
I stand with Circe in my hand staring at the bookshelf that holds my Classics. The Iliad is there and the Odyssey, the Eneid and that battered book I grew up with that has my childhood stories of the Gods of Olympus and the mighty heroes of Greece. The Song of Achilles is there as well, together with some of Mary Renault’s books. My beloved masterpieces.
I saved this book for my vacation in Greece. I was on the shores of Ithaca when Odysseus appeared in the book at about 54%. I was surrounded by antiquity and mythology. I was ready for this book and had high expectations.
I'm back home now where I stand in front of my special bookshelf with Circe in my hand and I’m at a loss…
I didn’t like it.
I think it was because of the way Odysseus was portrayed. He was a ruthless tactician, an egotistical ruler and in the end a murderous madman. Original portrayal yes, but it pissed me off to see one of my favorite heroes cast in this light. I am sorry, I am human, I grew up with Odysseus. Perhaps he was a madman after all, but for me he was a childhood friend and I do not like to see him in any other way than one of the best of the Greeks. I am selfish.
I also had an issue connecting with Circe.
Everything was done right in bringing her to life. Circe was a brave woman who stood against the Olympian gods to protect who and what she loved. She was a lesser god, the daughter of Helios, who discovered her witchcraft abilities driven by the love for a mortal. We follow her from birth during a span of 1000 years. We see her grow, make mistakes, learn from them. We see the men that shaped her life, her father, her brother, Prometheus, Glaucos, Dedalus, Hermes, Odysseus, her son Telegonus and Odysseus’s son Telemachus. We see her standing brave against Athena and the monster Scylla twice. She helps trap the Minotaur in the Labyrinth under Minos’s castle in Crete. She is beautiful and strong and the very image of Girl Power.
And yet I couldn’t connect to her and I don’t know why.
There are so many 5 star reviews that I am jealous I couldn’t experience the book at the level most of the readers have experienced it.
Is it possible, I wonder, to stare at Van Gogh’s paintings and not like them? Because that’s how I felt with Circe. I felt I had a masterpiece in my hands, but my eyes were not clear enough to see the glamour.

Madeline Miller’s writing is beautiful and spellbinding. It glimmers as if blessed by the very gods she writes about and each word sounds like the tune of a harp string. The originality with which the author has built the story of Circe, witch of Aiaia, and the level of research done must be praised. 5 stars for beauty of the writing and 5 stars for originality.
Unfortunately I needed more than the tunes of a harp to enjoy Circe.
  XiaXiaLake | Jan 16, 2019 |
This is a story of Circe (as the book’s title hints), daughter of sun god Helios, and nymph Perse, the granddaughter titan Oceanus. For those, who doesn’t remember Greek mythology in detail (like me), you may recall her in the Odyssey the protagonist comes to the island, where a witch transforms part of his crew to pigs. That witch is Circe and his is the story of her life.
The book follows the popular now female view of the history, to show the other side. It is done very professionally (the author is a specialist in Greek literature) and engaging. In picks up several important topics related to the place of women in traditional societies (from KKK (kinder küche kirche) to deciding their marriages to rape) but doesn’t go all righteous indignation of modern social justice warriors, where men are bad and women are good just because they belong to either gender. Like many original Greek stories there are a lot of scheming and wily women, starting with Circe’s mother.
An interesting read, several nice linking to a missing parts of original mythos (origin of monstrous Scylla is an example) and many Greek heroes are mentioned. The ending was a bit predictable for me.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
Outstanding. Miller has worked her way inside the Greek myths and legends to flesh out their gods, Titans, mortals, and monsters with not only backstories but motivations, conflicts, inconsistencies, entanglements, nuances, and scars. That's surely the point for anyone who studies classics, but she's done the writer's work as well to give it all a solid armature of plot and narrative arc that's not always there when you get them piecemeal, as most of us have done. And the result is thrilling, honestly. Miller is a strong writer, and—just as important when working with this kind of deep historical material—she has an excellent ear, so not a word rings false. From the book's opening pages the witch Circe is a character to wonder and care about—a believable and fascinating anti/heroine. I loved every word.

There are also some interesting meditations here on mortality and fate, both of which are often on my mind these days. The last page and a half was as moving as anything I've read in a long time.

Also in awe of the book's insane crossover power. Circe is for lovers of literary fiction and historical fiction, book clubs, scholars, your aunt, your teenager, your best friend. This was a great book to wind up a good reading year.

(There are some neat images of Circe on Miller's blog.) ( )
2 vote lisapeet | Dec 31, 2018 |
This was a really lovely telling of the Circe story. Frankly, I knew little about Circe, and found her a fascinating and refreshing character. I know the author is well-versed in Greek history and mythology. I don’t know how much of the novel is canon and how much is the author’s filling in the edges, but it makes a beautiful whole.

The part of Circe’s story that I did know was her life on an island, encountering Odysseus, and turning his men to pigs. I thought the author did a great job of conveying what life as an immortal on an island would be like, and how that would evolve over time. And the ending - I loved it so much, I read the last chapter twice. ( )
  chavala | Dec 29, 2018 |
Rating: 6* of five

What does it mean to be a god?

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.
******
You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.
******
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.
What Circe learns in this novel is that gods aren't much more than vessels crafted to serve a purpose. The gods exist relative to us humans so that they may be filled and emptied; all the roots and seeds of the universe's awareness reside in them. The gods woke, they were not born, they did not (as humans, created only in personal union, always do) represent the culmination of anything. They were not, then they were.

Where we struggle to find purpose in, a frame for, our human existence, the gods in the myths and tales struggle to find individual, personal meaning. Athena, born of her male parent's really bad headache, has shape and purpose from the instant she arrives in the world. She's got to spend human lives by the scores to perceive the dimmest outline of personal meaning in a cataclysm like the Trojan War. Her existence is framing the story of this war; her fighting for one side and against the other is what her identity, her meaning, derives from. She's defining herself through this war. Her purpose, Goddess Athena the Personification of Wisdom, was with her always.

Down here on Earth, meaning is an inevitable precondition of human life. Priam, Helen, Agamemnon represent the culmination of generations of royal births. Their meaning in life is to lead large groups of Greeks to their glorious deaths, reduced to simplest terms and presented only in the purpose or frame of the goddess's desired war. We complete patterns we cannot ever see because we are always amid them, albeit without a sense of our orientation within them. Our multivarious searches for a purpose to plop our meanings into go by many names, religion and art and philosophy and sex. The gods see, therefore create, the pattern of meaning we weave in our searches for "Personal Purpose" in the world.

The whole review, very much TL;DR for LT purposes, goes live tomorrow at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. But you get the idea; it's a six-star read because it made me think and think and think. I love books that do this. [The Song of Achilles] did as well. Madeline Miller's beautiful prose makes my brain click on, my heart switch from vibrate to song mode, and my eyes strangely susceptible to atmospheric contaminants requiring copious tearing to cleanse the irritants out.

That's my story, anyway. I'm stickin' to it. ( )
  richardderus | Dec 27, 2018 |
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When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.
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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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Follows Circe, the banished witch daughter of Helios, as she hones her powers and interacts with famous mythological beings before a conflict with one of the most vengeful Olympians forces her to choose between the worlds of the gods and mortals.Circe is not powerful like her father Helios, nor viciously alluring like her mother Perse. 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. Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many figures in mythology. When Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, she ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians.… (more)

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