Circe by Madeline Miller

35959740._sy475_Fiction – print. Little, Brown and Company, 2018. 393 pgs. Purchased.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Circe is a witch living on a remote island who changes Odysseus’ men into pigs. In Miller’s retelling, we are introduced to the complicated backstory to this seemingly minor character, the daughter of the sun god Helois who is perceived as a threat to the fragile dominion of Olympus over Titan.

Banished to the island by Zeus, Circe must confront the unintended consequences of her power, including the loss of the man she loves and remorse over the death of mortal sailors by the nymph she turned into a monster. But she also comes to understand how her powers and her personality were stifled by the Olympians and the Titans, who value vanity and jealousy above all other traits. And her freedom from their society allows her to plot her own course and standup to those gods who try to change it.

I read The Odyssey in 2012, so the details of that novel were rather fuzzy when I set out to start reading this one. It wasn’t until right before Odysseus arrives on the shores of Circe’s island that I remembered her small part in his story. But I so enjoyed seeing the events of his journey through the eyes of someone with so much depth, complexity, and contradictory emotions.

And the backstory Miller provides Circe with was fascinating. I briefly studied Greek and Roman mythology in sixth grade history, but the yearlong focus on Medusa, Aphrodite, Zeus, and Pandora never quite sparked the desire to learn more. I was worried a book focused on Greek mythology and the events of The Odysseywould be too heavy and complicated to offer an enjoyable read.

Instead, I found this to be surprisingly easy and enjoyable read without sacrificing the complexity of the characters, although there were times when I wished the pacing was a bit faster. I understand now why this book was rated as the best book of 2018 by members of Book of the Month, and I enjoyed this one enough that Miller’s other book focused on events prior to Odysseus’ journey, The Song of Achilles, moved from being a book I’ve heard about to one I want to read.

This is my seventeenth book for #20BooksofSummer. I received my copy in February 2019 as part of my Book of the Month membership.

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