The Blurb (from Goodreads):
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.
This year I travelled to Greece for research for a novel I am writing, and I set out to read as many books as I could set in the Hellenic Republic. I was particularly interested in novels inspired by Greek myth, and so bought this on the recommendation of a friend.
What a brilliant recommendation! It is truly spellbinding.
Circe is, of course, the witch in Homer’s The Odyssey who turns Odysseus’s men into swine. Madeline Miller’s reimagining of the story put Circe right at the heart of the narrative, a young woman struggling to find her way in a world filled with lust, violence, and misogyny.
The daughter of Helios the sun-god and a nymph, Circe seems to have inherited none of her parents’ glamour and beauty. She falls in love but is betrayed, and in her grief and rage turns her rival into a dreadful ravenous monster. Her own power frightens her, and those around her, and she is banished to live alone on a remote island. But Circe’s family is at the heart of the ancient Greek world, and its power struggles swirl around her not matter how much she struggles to be free. She encounters the Minotaur, Medea and Odysseus, among many others, as she slowly grows into her powers. And the ending! It had me in tears.
One of my best books of the year!
You might also like to read my review of Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood here: