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Circe by Madeline Miller is one of those books that you can’t put down and when you’re finished you have to just sit there and process the magnitude of what you’ve just read. After having some time to process this amazing novel I still don’t know if I have the words to describe how I feel about this. I love greek mythology and this story did not disappoint at all. If you haven’t read it I seriously recommend you do. Circe is the story of strength and survival.
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In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
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This story is rather incredible. It’s a complex tale that spans generations filled with intense adventures, wild magic, scary monsters and it’s fair share blood and violence. It’s a harsh and unapologetic tale of one woman’s life story. Circe grows up aching for the acceptance of her family, only to be disregarded and looked down upon. She is tricked and lied to, suffering for placing her trust in the wrong people.
One of the most pivotal moments in her character development and the catalyst for her actions is the rape and savagery she suffers at the hands of mortal men who take advantage of her compassionate nature. From that moment on she is no longer the innocent downtrodden woman she was, but fierce, unforgiving and vengeful. From turning the men who visit her island into pigs, to standing up to one of the most powerful Olympians, Circe is a woman who time and time again turns her tragedy into strength.
I have to warn you there is a lot of violence and rape in this book which can be triggering.
The book is so well written and very intelligent. Ultimately, it’s a tale of finding yourself and forging your own path outside of societies rules and expectations. It’s sad and confronting at times, but also endearing and comforting. As a woman who has been told she is not good enough, been treated badly by men and felt the pressures to be a certain kind of person and hide my uniqueness, this story hits close to home. Intentional or not, Circe makes some very poignant social commentary about today’s society using ancient greek history and vividly written fiction.