Circe Book Review by Parul Kulshrestha
It is very rare to find a connection with a mythical character written thousands of years ago to your present-day life. Circe, is one such book by Madeline Miller, the best-selling writer of Song of Achillies. This book is an adaptation of Greek myths, most notably Odessey narrated from the perspective of Circe, the protagonist.
When you start reading Circe, you would feel empathetic towards her, you feel frustrated looking at the way she was treated by her own family but slowly you would connect to the loneliness she went through and the strength she gained to survive it.
As someone from India, where Greek myths are not talked about or not a mainstream topic of discussion in literary circles as well, Circe book hits a nerve. A mythical woman given a contemporary tone of empowerment making it more relatable to the women living in 21st century.
Circe, the divine daughter of Titan Helios and naiad Perse. Since the beginning of the book, Circe’s conventionally unattractive beauty decided her lower social status in her family.
Mocked, bullied, humiliated by her family members especially her father Helios, made Circe diffident about herself. She finally found solace in Glaucos, a fisherman she fell in love with but his mortality was an obstacle. Circe, who was aware about her ability to perform magic, transform Glaucos into a god. Instead of expressing gratitude to the love showered by Circe, Glaucos chose another beautiful nymph Scylla as his wife. Fuming with jealousy, Circe punished Scylla and confessed this to her father who exiled her to an uninhabited island Aiaia as a punishment.
In the modern dating world, we all have been in position where we give our heart and soul to a person who gives a damn about it. Although we are not exiled to an uninhabited island but we do live in seclusion from the world, mourning the heartbreak.
As we are all initially fearful of facing the world alone, Circe was scared on the island. But this curse of exile turned out to be a boon. She started practicing witchcraft using the herbs and plants available on the island. Tamed wolves, pigs, and hens. Talked to the birds making that island of Aiaia a world away from the world. Circe, took Hermes as her lover who visited her at his convenience without giving her any fulfillment of sharing a life.
Circe was also seen as naïve towards the world. She trusted people easily. The price she paid when giving refuge to some lost sailors in the sea, one of which ravished her. She later punished them through her magic but made a promise to herself to not trust anyone. Until, Odysseus came to ask for refuge at her island. She trusted him and they both healed each other’s wounds. The relationship did not last as Odysseus returned to his kingdom.
The entire book focused on the journey of Circe from a naïve girl to a powerful woman capable of making her decisions, protecting herself and her loved ones. Like most independent women of our times who are living lives on their terms staying away from the family, Circe built her life on that island raising her standards of getting a man who would level them.
“We are not our blood,” an important quote from the book in which Circe explained that no matter what is our family of origin, we can all choose to have a different path.
Something I do not like about the book was its slow pace in the middle while Circe was building her life on the island. The portrayal of a mythical character as a contemporary woman of the 21st century can also be a fact that many historians might not agree to.
In conclusion, I would suggest everyone to give this novel a chance. The easy style of writing of Madeline Miller will make you want for more. This book from the point of view of Circe will give readers a glimpse of the lives of women in that era and how to get connected to a character in the book.