Circe by Madeline Miller is an ode to the goddess witch of Aiaia. I devoured this book over the course of 4 days, which was partly due to my enthusiasm to read until I couldn’t anymore and at the same time savour the experience for as long as I could. As someone who is forever enthralled by mythology, I have widely read Indian mythology and while owning innumerable books on varied mythology, I just hadn’t found my way into Greek mythology. But this book is truly what I was waiting for.
“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”
― Madeline Miller, Circe
I’m not one for reading books on recommendation, most often I like for the books I pick up to be products of my own version of getting lost in the woods. Although, I did read Circe because bookstagrammers world over seemed to be talking of it, and I’m thankful that my Instagram algorithm for once didn’t take away news but instead brought me a true discovery.
Madeline Miller’s retelling of Circe is powerful not because she makes this goddess witch indestructible but because she’s able to talk of her in entirety. From a foundling to the bright-eyed witch of Aiaia. She makes the often-complex world accessible to the reader, she focuses without seeming isolated from the rest of the narrative that runs alongside. From the men who toy with her, those who cast her out for her powers, to those who come to admire her and only one who finally loves her. I simply can’t help but rise and fall with Circe’s stories and the forces that moulded her. Her unflinching love and protectiveness over Telegonus and her understanding of what is eternal, what is to be alive and what is truly dead. Even in the end as she seeks her true self, I’m left with the weight of her being, her honesty, her truth.
Circe’s adventures on Aiaia, the gods, goddesses and mortals that come to her door, seek her out, the likes of Hermes, Odysseus, Aeetes, Medea, Penelope, Telemachus. This exile while painful becomes where she grows into her powers. She finds herself, a feat she had been trying to achieve for generations. She goes through the journey as a child craving attention, to a goddess witch, she realises the folly of men, she finds lovers, she becomes the keeper of Aiaia, she fights Athena, she is a single parent to Telegonus, she finds love and at last, she realises that all she ever wanted was to be her true self and yet again, unflinchingly, she makes the potion and readies for a new life. If that is not resilience and power, I wonder what is.
It’s been a long time since fantasy fiction has come calling strongly at my mind’s door and I for one am only too glad that it came back to me with the likes of Circe. Go ahead and find the time to read this book, seldom has divine felt this mortal. It is easily one of my favourites of the year.
“I would say, some people are like constellations that only touch the earth for a season.”
― Madeline Miller, Circe