Circe by Madeline Miller

I always wanted to know more about mythology, Greek or Roman, and there was actually an elective in my 9th grade catalog.  My mom thought it impractical and alas, I wasn’t able to learn about those trivial tales of god-ness grandeur.

I picked up this beautiful book by Madeline Miller which was selected by EW magazine as one of several excellent fall reads this year.  It pays homage to Circe, the nymph/goddess of transformation who seemed to never be loved.  Made famous for her exile cast down to her by Zeus himself in order to keep her powers restrained, she chances upon the hero Odysseus and turns his vile men to pigs.  It highlights her affair with Daedalus whom she assists with the delivery of the Minotaur from her sister’s womb while he devises a plan to keep him isolated in a labyrinth during his off season from murder.  She discovers her powers after turning her lover Glaucos into a sea faring fish-god and creates the demon Scylla due to her jealousy of their tryst.

What I loved about the entire story is that in the end she did fall in love and have a man prioritize her but had a hell of a time getting there.  She becomes a mother and her entire existence and cellular structure changes due to this tough period.  She describes motherhood how most of us now talk of it: exhausting, fierce, challenging, passionate, arduous and rewarding.  She paces her home while her infant wails, unable to quell his intense emotions and does this as a single mother like no other.

Miller uses language that sets the tone and scene with incredible imagery and prose.  My favorite line was “But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth.” Geez.  I felt like I could taste the wine and smell the herbs in Circe’s kitchen and hear the surf and feel the cool soft earth beneath my feet.  She uses all five senses when opening up a passage.

I enjoyed this book even though there were parts that seemed to lag.  My mythology thirst has been quenched for now.


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