Author: Madeline Miller
Genres: Fantasy, Greek Mythology
Pub Date: Apr. 2018 (read Aug. 2018)
I just finished Naomi Novik’s Uprooted a few weeks before reading this and my experience reading Circe was a lot like my experience reading Uprooted. Not that the plot was similar, because it’s not at all, but in that I liked both books in theory, but they were just so damn slow to get through.
I’m not gonna debate that this wasn’t a good book. Miller packs all kinds of interesting and flawed characters into this 400 page book and I really liked Circe’s character development and how she changed and grew throughout the course of the novel. I almost felt immortal myself when reading this book in that a lot happened, but it simultaneously felt like very little happened. While I can’t comprehend that this story stretched over a millennia, I did feel like substantial time had passed between Circe’s years in Oceanos and her many many years as the witch of Aiaia. This book really helped me understand the concept of immortality and how the Gods become so stubborn, unyielding, and often cruel. In their immortality and divinity, they really have become like petulant little children – expecting the world to bow at their feet and then throwing a tantrum whenever things don’t go their way.
I loved that Circe was different. She had the voice of a mortal and she felt guilt, grief, and empathy in a way the rest of the Gods had long parted with. She had her moments of anger and rage, but she was also forgiving and reasonable. I loved when she got angry because the Gods had been so cruel to her and I loved seeing her fight back against her circumstances instead of just lying down and taking it like she had always done in the past. She was a powerful goddess and yet she was constantly underestimated because of her empathy. All the other Gods thought they could just roll right over her. For a long time she just took it, but I liked watching her start to make decisions for herself and embrace her own power and vulnerability.
Okay, so writing about what I liked for this review is actually helping in my general enjoyment of the book. It was a struggle for me to read this. I compare to Uprooted because I read them both in the same month and I never got sucked into either book. I think it took me about 2 weeks to read through Circe in it’s entirety and I mostly had to force myself to pick it up because I struggled to stay engaged in it for any substantial period of time. I think books can be slow moving and still totally engaging, but Circe just wasn’t for me. I’ve never been a great lover of greek mythology because I have always thought the Gods are just all giant ridiculous babies, which Circe pretty much confirms, but it’s just not my favourite genre.
I mostly loved the ending of this book. I totally forgot that the synopsis talks about Circe getting caught up between her love for the Gods and the mortals and that this was ultimately where the story was going. There was such a change in Circe between the beginning and end of the novel and I appreciated and respected the decisions she made.
So mostly my problem was just with the pacing of the book. Reflecting now I’m actually feeling a lot better about this book, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t a struggle for me to read. I’m not quite sure how this could necessarily be different, I think I may have just struggled with how nebulous the plot was. I never had any idea where it was going or what the point of the story was. I mean there could be a lesson there in that the monotony of immortality is what makes the gods the way they are, but I just wanted more. The only place I felt the plot could be going was with Circe eventually getting off the island, but she mostly seemed content with her lot and made what she could of her misfortunes, so I struggled to determine what was really driving the story. I think I will rate this as a 3.5 stars because I appreciated the themes and development, but it wasn’t really an enjoyable reading experience for me, and that matters to me too.