I discovered the magical world of Greek mythology during my childhood. I talked about it a little bit here. I must admit that the Norse myths have always been my favourite ones but the Greek ones have followed very closely behind. Stories featuring Athena, Heracles, Prometheus, Minotaur and others are something I could re-read on a regular basis.
Reading Circe was like re-discovering my favourite soft and cosy blanket. Its story soothed my soul and brought me lots of nostalgia.
Side note: you don’t have to be familiar with Greek myths to enjoy this story by the way. It’s written in a way that no prior knowledge is required whatsoever.
I saw behind Circe a search for belonging.
The wise and wonderful Maya Angelou once famously said: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high, the reward is great. I belong to Maya.” And to me, that’s Circe’s story in a nutshell.
“When I was born, the word for what I was did not exist.”
I also sensed a very strong feminist undercurrent. The main protagonist faces a lot of discrimination because of her gender and I thought the book managed to address gender issues quite well.
But it’s the writing that really stood out for me. It is truly exquisite. It’s lyrical, extremely quotable and brought me so much joy. The pace is slow. I enjoy gently-paced stories but even I found this a tad too slow at times. If you prefer action, bear that in mind as this book may not be for everyone.
The story follows a nymph called Circe throughout her journey of solitude, explores her dysfunctional family dynamics, and shows her immortal imperfections. All sprinkled with a dash of a romance on the top.
“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”
Ever since Circe was born, she hasn’t fitted in. Her voice is weak and her appearance is strange. Everyone from her family makes fun out of her and doesn’t take her seriously. She is not perfect despite being an immortal goddess. I think it’s her flaws and complexity that make her so relatable. She craves to be loved and accepted. As we all do. And she also wants to belong.
Circe, very early on in the book, falls in love and commits an offence, which gets her sentenced into living on her own on an isolated island. There, she starts her journey of healing and self-discovery.
There was definitely lots of loneliness involved but I also saw that Circe, despite being alone didn’t always feel lonely. You see we could be surrounded by people and still feel lonely at times. That’s something I quite appreciated about her story. How she embraces her newly discovered power and decides to follow her own dreams despite her solitude, or maybe because of it.
What’s really wonderful about this story is also how it explores mother / child relationship. How do we let go and let our children roam free? How do we accept that they may get hurt? How do we give them freedom they need, without the ability to shield them from the evil in this world? I thought that was explored beautifully via exposing mother’s fears and seeing her inner torment.
“But perhaps no parent can truly see their child. When we look we see only the mirror of our own faults.”
There is also a little bit of romance involved. It’s not the book’s main focus but it is there.
“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
The philosophical questions such as ‘what does it mean to be alive’ and ‘what can we ask for in a relationship’ are imposed and Circe ponders about them a lot. She is an immortal with the strength to stay vulnerable. She is scared because the outcome of her actions is uncertain yet she follows through with them anyway.
She gets laughed at, ridiculed, is told she is an abomination… yet she remains gentle, kind and her spine doesn’t bend. She is a goddess with a very mortal heart.
I could go on, Circe definitely captured my heart and her ability to stand her ground, despite knowing nobody else will be standing there with her, truly impressed me.
Recommended? Yes. The ending is likely to melt your heart.
Possible triggers: Rape, domestic violence