“Every moment mortals died, by shipwreck and sword, by wild beasts and wild men, by illness, neglect, and age. It was their fate, Prometheus had told me, the story they all shared. No matter how vivid they were in life, no matter how brilliant, no matter the wonders they made, they came to dust and smoke. Meanwhile every petty and useless god would go on sucking down the bright air until the stars went dark.”
This book was so much more than I expected! It was so good. Really lived up to the hype and I now see why everyone loves it. I went in with decently high expectations, based on how many and how often people rave about it, but I wasn’t expecting to be blown away or anything. Spoiler alert: I was! It was such a beautiful book. Definitely a 4 star read for me. Madeline Miller is also a new author that I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on.
Before I got this book, and had just heard about it on Goodreads and Booktube, I 100% thought it was a YA book. Which isn’t a bad thing at all; I was still wholeheartedly interested in reading it. I was just expecting something rather light, maybe a little heavy-handed with the feminism, but an unorthodox, fascinating look at a mythological Greek figure. Definitely something that I thought sounded great. But what I got was way better!
This book was NOT light. It actually tackled some pretty heavy themes and subjects, in a very intelligent and insightful manner. As I was reading, I kept getting so pleasantly surprised that there was such genuine substance to it. It delved into the concept of humanity and the worth of one’s life and what it means to live, etc. Throughout the book, we see Circe grow from being a naive woman always seeking the approval of her “betters” and doing what she’s told, to becoming a creature of cunning and revenge. And then, finally to someone who truly knows herself and is at peace with her own inner strength. In Miller’s hands, it was a heartbreaking, inspirational journey. We as readers learn the lessons and hard truths right alongside Circe, but it never came across and preachy or unsubtle.
It was not a quick one, though. We are with Circe for thousands of years, as she comes to understand herself and the world she lives in. I can see why some people might be turned off by this, as the book at times can seem kind of slow. It is a very character-focused novel. However, I found that when I was reading, the language and the author’s lush descriptions and immersive storytelling kept me completely engaged. It was so gorgeous and so well done. There were a few times when I didn’t feel like picking up the book to continue reading, hence my 4 star rating versus a 5 star, but once I did, I was again blown away by it.
The Greek mythology that is interwoven into the plot was so fascinating and seamlessly executed. I loved this sort of different take on the gods and goddesses. It was a raw, brutal glimpse into the lives of the Greek mythological figures, one that didn’t sugarcoat anything. The egos and the cruelties of the gods were on clear display here. The strangeness that the original myths contain, but that has been kind of overlooked at times (cough cough the Minotaur), is right out in the open here. I knew for sure that I was reading an adult book when Circe’s sister told her that their father fucks his prized white cows 😅. The things that have just been accepted, like Prometheus’ punishment or the way the lesser nymphs were treated (by both gods and humans alike), is brought to light here and examined in a unique way. Miller does not shy away from anything.
It was all so interesting, the world, the language, the settings, the take on classic tales, the glimpses of well known figures, and I absolutely loved seeing everything from Circe’s perspective. A goddess, but removed from the rest of the immortals. Sympathetic and fascinated by humans, but not actually one of them. She was a fantastic character and reading her life/self-discovery story was delightful.
I can’t wait to get my hands on her other books! I’m excited to see how they compare.
Thank you for reading!