"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Circe by Madeline Miller

I loved CIRCE by Madeline Miller but it got off to a slow start for me. I listened to the first disc of the audiobook and turned it off thinking I couldn't do it in that format and maybe not at all. But Circe is a book club selection so I waited a few days, turned the audiobook back on and fell in love!

My first problem, I discovered, is that I know very little about Greek mythology. I think the last time I actually read any of the old stories for myself was back in junior high school...a long time ago. I knew the barest bones of the stories told and most of them related to Odysseus and his journeys.  I had never heard of Circe before so I had to do some research about the Greek gods and goddesses and all those demigods and titans.

Here is what I learned about Circe from Wikipedia:
  • She was the daughter of the god Helios (sun god) and the nymph Perse
  • Some accounts have her fall in love with the sea-god Glaucus, but he prefers the nymph Scylla. In jealousy Circe poisons Scylla's bathing water and turns her into a monster. 
  • She was vanquished to Aeaea by her father for a variety of transgressions.
  • She was well-known for her knowledge about herbs and potions
  • She changed most of Odysseus's crew into swine when they visited her island, Aeaea, on their way home from the Trojan war. Odysseus forces Circe to switch them back and then ends up staying with her for a year before returning home, after fathering a son with her, Telegonus.
  • Classic literature from the Renaissance time depict Circe as a predatory female.
  • Art work with her depictions show her as a female to be feared as well as desired since she is viewed as sexually free.
In other words, Circe is the bad girl of Greek mythology, a person to be feared for her skills and predatory nature.

Then along comes Madeline Miller with a new interpretation. In this book Circe becomes a powerful and sympathetic character. Ron Charles, in the Washington Post, started his review with this funny line, "The archaeological evidence is sketchy, but the first pussy hat was probably knitted by Circe." In Miller's hands Circe becomes a feminist before the #MeToo movement. She is powerful, beautiful, wounded, and complicated. She is a very sympathetic character. Ron Charles tells us, "And to anyone who thinks that women can be shamed into silence, this witch has just one thing to say: 'That’ll do, pig.'"

Miller collected all the bits of Circe's stories from mythology and pieced them together into an incredibly and well-written story. AND, and that is a big AND, it made me want to read more on the topic and by this author.

I will be recommending this book to everyone who reads...well, not to little kids, but everyone else.

-Anne
 (RHS book club July 2019)

13 comments:

  1. Love the quotes you brought in from the outside for this post - it's hard to laugh when in the middle of a nasty winter head cold - but the image of Circe with a pussy hat has me chuckling (cackling, coughing & spluttering)!

    Loved this book too. Think you will enjoy her earlier one too.

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    1. I included those quotes because they made me laugh, too.

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  2. As is often the case, I totally agree with you. I really enjoyed this book, and that was a surprise, because I tend to shy away from mythology. Miller just drew me into this story.

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  3. I know. That quote from Ron Charles had me giggling, too.

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  4. This is encouraging! I purchased the audio as a daily deal from audible, listened to an hour or so and just couldn't do it. Maybe I'll give it another go...

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    1. I was all-in after about an hour of listening. In fact I came to really appreciate this format since I didn't have to struggle with pronunciations.

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  5. I loved it too, and was sorry that more people in BC didn't feel that way. We all have different tastes, but I thought it was well-written, fast paced and full of fascinating characters. Too many of them perhaps but that's the way of mythology. The ending was beautiful and clarified the joy and pain of being /mortal.

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    1. I thought everyone would love it and was shocked when the two gals said they didn't. However I could relate to the hard start on this book. It felt overwhelming at the beginning.

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  6. So glad you loved it, Anne! I love what Miller does with greek mythology particularly in the narrative of female characters who have little to no part and when they do it's often filled by stereotypes.

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  7. Circe was fantastic. I can't wait to see what Miller does next.

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  8. Greek mythology has never really done it for me, but I love the idea of Circe being a feminist!

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  9. Agree, agree, agree. And now I want to read Achilles by the same author, which, I've heard is better than Circe.

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  10. Yeah I need to read up on mythology a bit. Mine is quite poor. Glad you liked Circe.

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