Friday, February 8, 2019

Circe (Madeline Miller)

Before I read Madeline Miller, I had about as much interest in mythology as I did in sweet potatoes -- that is, none. Last year, a friend of mine told me that I simply "must" read Miller's Orange Prize-winning The Song of Achilles, so reluctantly, I did. I have to say I was shocked by how much I liked it, and most of that is because of Miller's writing style. You can obviously tell she is passionate about this field (and her impressive credentials show this), and she makes what could be a jarring topic totally accessible to her readers. While I did not like Circe quite as much as The Song of Achilles, I still appreciate what this author does very much.

Circe is the goddess daughter of Helios, and let's just say, she is completely misunderstood by her family. She uses her witch powers in a way that is not allowed by Zeus, and so is banished to a deserted island. Everyone thinks this is a punishment, but they don't quite know Circe. Legends and monsters of mythology come in and out of her immortal life: Athena, Odysseus, Hermes, Scylla, the Minotaur, and the like. Miller provides a thorough glossary at the end for those of us who are less than knowledgable on this topic.

Circe is unputdownable until she gets to her island, and then for me, it gets quite dry. But that should certainly not take away from Miller's prowess in making mythology something that everyone can relate to. For who among us hasn't felt like an outsider at some point in our lives?