Pony Express book of the week: ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller

Circe, by Madeline Miller, follows the life story of a nymph, daughter of the sun god Helios and outcast of her family. For decades, Circe is chastised for her unusual appearance, screechy voice, and uninterest in marriage. Her only love in life came when her younger brother Aeetes was born until he too had outgrown the solemn halls at which they lived and her unadventurous company. Day by day she struggled to find love, purpose, and her own identity until one thing changed her life for eternity: the mortal world. 

Circe, caught in a self perpetuating cycle of insecurity, discovers her ability to possess the power of witchcraft. In efforts to prove her nature, she transforms both mortal and divine into figments of her imagination. Threatened by the unknowing extent of her power, Zeus banishes her to the island of Aeaea where she finds companionship in the animals and practices specialization of her gifts. Though confined geographically, Circe is not foreign to visitors, including well known figures in mythology such as Hermes, Daedalus, and Odysseus. 

As if heartbreak is not enough, Circe is met with peril when word gets out that an unsuspecting woman is willing to offer hospitality to those that pass. Yet the true challenge comes when an unforeseen event forces her to face the Olympians and decide where her loyalty resides: with the mortal or the immortal. 

Review: ★★★★✩ 4.3/5

Miller’s interpretation of Greek Mythology and the constant longing Circe has to live up to the successes of her siblings encapsulates the modern day struggles of women who sacrifice their own lives to meet society’s standards. Miller’s exceptional use of description invites readers to feel the tensions between the endearing, gut wrenching, and suspenseful periods in Circe’s life as well as how her identity develops over time. 

Lauren Dempsky
Madeline Miller’s cover illustration for ‘Circe’ depicts how the main character, Circe, has a pointed chin and skin that glows like copper, physical features that isolate her from the rest. Miller’s novel encapsulates the classic Greek myth surrounding Circe and humanizes the characters to make their struggles relatable to the reader.

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