Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Chantelle Cortez Maglalang
June 22, 2021
It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.
Photo of a hand holding a paperback copy of Circe in front of an orange tree.
Circe is a story that explores various forms of growth. (Photo by Chantelle Cortez Maglalang)

As a fervent lover of Greek mythology and antiquity, I approached this story with an eager inclination and finished it with a resonant ache.

For centuries, her story has been told through the male gaze and, in this case, Circe herself takes jurisdiction. She is made known to you so fruitfully, fractured in parts despite her immortal status. I felt resonant with the human tendrils of emotion that ran through her, divinity and femininity alike. As a daughter, sister, mother, goddess, witch – she is everything and so much more.

Miller catalogues an existence with such a soft and raw honesty. Circe is a woman fighting tooth and nail in a world that continuously tries to speak her existence, preordain her fate. But she is its sole decider. In the world of gods and men – she not only paves her path but nurtures it.

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.
Photo of Circe open below an orange tree and a sky full of whispy clouds.
Miller's lush descriptions of the island brought great photographic inspiration so out to my garden I went! (Photo by Chantelle Cortez Maglalang)

Despite the main focus on Circe, I appreciated Miller’s open exploration of power and immortality. We were privy to gods, heroes and creatures in ways that go beyond the boasts of classical myths. Circe’s existence does not lie in isolation but is made by her various interactions and relationships with them.

I greatly admire the ways the growth and cultivation of the island mirrored Circe’s development. Miller writes of isolation that does not limit itself to physicality. It is isolation that spurs growth, haphazard and wild as the groves but also tender as petals.

This is a book that prompts introspection in all forms, light and harrowing. It is a book that has come to mean a lot in times where being seen and heard tug at my heart so heavily. I give this book a 4 out of 5.

Illustration of four stars drawn onto a torn slip of paper.

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