Meet Circe. Not to be confused with the tyrant Cersei of Game of Thrones fame, the title character of Madeline Miller’s glorious new novel (literally glorious, have you seen the swoon-worthy front cover?) is one of Greek mythology’s most overlooked goddesses. But Miller is on a mission to bring her back from obscurity, stitching together the fragments of a story littered across history to tell the whole tale. This time in Circe’s own voice.
The ugly duckling of the Titans, Circe is born an outcast. Not blessed with the looks or powers gifted to the divine, she has to find her own magic to make her mark on the world. In Miller’s vision of ancient Greece, the deities are even more flawed than their mortal counterparts and the tiffs and romantic trifles of the bronzed river gods and golden haired nymphs rival even Love Island. This jealousy and the threat of a power greater than their own, drives the gods to exile Circe.
It’s here, on the island of Aeaea, that Circe creates her own destiny. Her time on the island reads more like a star-studded - although at times bloody - dinner party than one of Homer’s epics. Miller’s immensely vivid descriptions of the island and it’s visitors will have you googling “all-inclusive resorts on Aeaea” in no time (spoiler alert: it’s not a real place, although our founder Emma's recent trip to Kefalonia makes a pretty good substitute).
An A to Z of the gods, with everyone from Hermes to Odysseus knocking at her door, Circe’s story is one full of love, loss and most importantly life. Even the most powerful of goddesses let their hair down, and Miller artfully shows the human side of immortality, with the rich mythology of the era dripping from every sentence. Miller has not only written a beautiful story, she’s given Circe a new lease of life, freeing her from the limitations of patriarchal prose and reinventing her as the impressive, compassionate and surprisingly human goddess she deserves to be remembered as.
Circe by Madeline Miller. Bloomsbury, 2018.