Fantasy, Fiction

Circe by Madeline Miller

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

34 thoughts on “Circe by Madeline Miller”

  1. I already have both Miller books on my list to buy, beacuse I’ve heard so many good things, and like you, I have an innate love of Greek mythology as well. I think I shall enjoy this one immensely as I already feel an affinity with the character. Wonderful review btw! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really hope you enjoy Miller’s writing Alex. It’s so beautiful. And all those references to my favourite Greek myths are just so wonderful. I can not wait to read The Song of Achilles next. 🙂

      Happy reading and thank you! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That ending made me cry, an utter perfection! 😊👌

      Thanks so much for your kind words, I’m struggling with writing at the moment (I blame stress of course) and I’m so happy my reviews still make sense. 😊❤️


    1. It’s Miller’s second book, her first was The Song of Achilles (which I am yet to read). They are stand alone books but some characters from the first book do get mentioned in Circe. 😊
      Thank you. ❤️


  2. I’ve heard really good things about this book! It did seem to give off a slow vibe which is why I’ve been putting it off for so long!! I tend to get bored with slow paced books! It is on my list to get to eventually, though!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely is on the slower side. I totally get that it may not be for everyone. If the right mood strikes though, I hope you’ll enjoy it. It’s written beautifully. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I keep seeing this book around, but no one has really gotten into how it’s written in a way that I understood. Your description of it being a slow burn and why makes sense. When you were a kid, how did you get into ancient Greek lit and other tales of gods?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoyed that slow philosophical burn, but it may not be for everyone. Thank you for your kind words.

      It was my grandma, who read me myths and many folk stories during my bed time. My dad would start buying them for me as Christmas gifts once I started asking for more of those tales. He would then discuss with me why I thought people created those myths and what they may have represented. I love how creative we have been throughout time and how our need to explain things and tell stories created all these beautiful legends.


        1. I am so lucky and grateful for my childhood. I’m also really grateful that you share your reading and your love for books with us, your readers. Your critical reviews are always joy to read! ❤️


  4. Ahhh, your review captures this book’s essence beautifully! I totally agree that there are very slow aspects to this book, but it really is a journey of self-exploration, and you describe it perfectly. And I love your phrasing! “She is a goddess with a very mortal heart.” Considering the twist ending, I find this extremely apt. 😉

    Amazing review Vera! Every single quote you included here was a standout for me, and I found Circe’s journey as a lover and mother very compelling as well. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved this book so much, thank you for recommending Miller to me, her writing really brings me so much joy. I can’t wait to read The Song of Achilles next. 😊❤️

      I found the entire book so quotable. I had to restrain myself from using quotes… 🙈🙈🙈 I knew you loved this book and I am so happy we both appreciated the self discovery Circe made. And that ending…. it was done to perfection! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree! I feel like her entire book is composed of moving quotes, and that ending? Whew, it washed away all my weariness 😊 And I so hope you love Song of Achilles! It’s much faster paced, and I personally found it more enjoyable, so fingers crossed for whenever you do get it! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  5. That quote about belonging somewhere… that sounds like what my therapist loved to tell me all the time 😃
    I have this book on my list for a while, sounds really good and everyone agrees that it’s great writing. I kinda wish i hadn’t put so many stuff on my Netgalley list cuz now i need to get through those first. Meh…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can agree with Netgalley! I have a lot of books there… mental note to myself: stop requesting more books!! 🙈🙈🙈 Hope your list shrinks soon! 🍀

      I got this quote from Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown. That book is all about belonging and having the courage to stand on our own. I know it’s fiction… but Brown is honestly such an excellent story teller and writes books that read like non-fiction. Promise! 😊😂 I really enjoyed it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m yet to read Song of Achilles but am really looking forward to it. TW are again similar to the one in Evelyn. They are mentioned throughout the book to help us understand some of Circe’s choices but the focus is not on them. I did not feel them to be nowhere near brutal as for example there were in Educated. But there are there and if someone is sensitive to them, they could get triggered. I personally felt they fitted into the story and were not explored for a sake of drama or a shock effect… hope that helps. I really recommend this book. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

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