Circe Utterly Bewitched Me

circe

So I just finished this book and… wow. As many of you know, I don’t normally review straight away, but it’s the end of the year, I’m compiling lists for wrap ups and, well, I want to discuss this book before that point for *reasons* you can probably guess 😉 Because wow.

Now my love story with this book began a little before I actually cracked it open, because I went to a book event where I got to meet the author! I can safely say she’s one of the loveliest authors I’ve ever met in person. Plus, she really kindly signed and personalised both my books!

Okay, moving on from the virtual book porn- that was only the initial charm after all 😉 Once I started reading, I was captivated by the distinctive, almost breathy voice. I felt like I could hear the hypnotic tones of this goddess with a human voice. So much of the character was bound up in this stylistic, rhythmic cadence. I was lulled, wide awake, into this intricately woven world.

“He could draw you in as if he were winding up a thread”

Indeed, the fact that Circe is a weaver is a central theme, threaded through the narrative. Greek myths are picked and pinned with care into the tremendous tapestry of the tale. Themes that crossed the breadth of time were stitched into a carefully constructed legend. What I loved was how this managed to both evoke well-known stories and also build on them in the true oral tradition.

“Beneath the smooth, familiar face of things is another that waits to tear the world in two”

I will say that, in terms of plot, it’s far from typical of the modern novel. Don’t expect a simple a to b structure- because that’s not what you’re going to get. There are lots of stories bound up in this seemingly simple book. There’s romance, parenthood, adventure and more. All in all, it is a reflection of the circle of life, with all its messy particulars. It’s the heroic journey- and yet it also feels reminiscent of a normal auto-biographical memoir. From beginning to end, it is a love letter to mortality told from the perspective of a god.

“Gods love novelty. They are curious as cats.”

Circe is by far one of the best retellings I have ever read. And for this to be on a topic that I care so much about is just a godsend. Miller did a beautiful job of conjuring the Greek world. This book was steeped in knowledge. There were carefully selected details- my favourite being the fact that Greeks considered bowmen to be cowardly- that brought history and stories to life. I was transported to a time when an epic might be recited from memory and the words they were singing felt like reality. It was like there really was a goddess guiding me through these vivid visions.

“You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.”

I also appreciated how cleverly the magic system was employed. I have to say this has one of the best descriptions of witchcraft I’ve come across in books. The idea of portraying it as a mixture of will and work (and to an extent artistry) was genius. It very much added to the world building and stood as a testament to the fantasy genre. What I especially liked, though, was how this reflected the idea of her bending fate, in a way that challenged even her divine father, who could merely bear witness to it.

“Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow.”

Consequently, Circe also explored interesting issues- like the role of women in Greek literature. I really respected the way this showed the strength of women, whilst not attempting to erase or rewrite history. This largely showed women working at the loom, discarded women and women under attack. Yes, there is and always will be room for the Athena-type, but this to me reflected the way a majority of women were treated.

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.” 

I will admit that because there was a focus on women, I feared that much-loved male characters would be maligned. This didn’t happen. I particularly thought the view presented of Odysseus was fair and nuanced. I liked how there was a range of characterisations from the immortal Helios to the more grounded Telemachus. I could, frankly, go on forever about how brilliant the characterisation was.

“His limbs turned great and nerveless, and all his strength was transmuted into smoke. I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.” 

I can safely say I have a feeling I’m going to like this more and more with time. It was endlessly quotable and perfectly compelling. I for one want to just keep rereading those last two paragraphs- they were nothing short of legendary! In short:

If you like retellings, then this is not to be missed.

If you like fantasy, you’re in for a real treat.

If you like stories, well, you get the idea. Read it!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

88 thoughts on “Circe Utterly Bewitched Me

  1. I absolutely adored Circe! Its so great. I thought the portrayal was Odysseus was very nuanced and balanced as well. And the way they described magic was great! Definitely one of books of the year!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Absolutely beautiful covers! I hadn’t seen these yet. 💜✨

    I don’t usually care for Greek or Roman based Mythos stories, except for the originals, but this book has intrigued me since I first started seeing reviews. You have made it sound like something I might like to read. I think Hoopla has it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 👍✨

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lovely review! So right. Those last two paragraphs made me immediately want to go back and reread which is rare. Part of me is like why can’t Madeline Miller be one of those authors who puts out something every year and another part of me is like no, don’t do that! It’s such a treat and was definitely a five-star read for me. Glad you liked it as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is a beautiful book! I admit I was a bit hesitant about Circe because I was afraid it would go over the top and start villianising Odysseus and the other male characters, but your review makes the book sound very even handed and amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You said everything I didn’t even know I wanted to say about Circe. It’s definitely one of the best books I read this year.

    I loved her portrayal of Odysseus in both Circe and Song of Achilles and I really want her to write about him more.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the review! I had been considering reading this because I love mythology but was a bit worried that it might take a one-note “all men are toxic morons” tack…from your review it sounds nicely nuanced.

    If you enjoy mythology retelling a, you might want to try “Til We Have Faces” by C S Lewis. It’s the story of Cupid and Psyche told by Psyche’s ugly, unloved sister (and one of my all time favorite books)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! Yeah I was very nervous about that too- but in the end it was very fair. There were good and bad men and women- and plenty of people in between- which I really appreciated.

      Great!! Til we have faces is on my tbr already, so I’m really glad to hear that! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Circe is one of the best books I read in 2018. I absolutely loved it and thoroughly enjoyed remembering it again via your excellent review, thanks for that.

    And it is indeed highly quotable, I wrote so many of its quotes in my little quote pad.

    I’m so happy you loved this book as well. 😊❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such an intriguing book. I’m still trying to muster up the courage to actually read it, cuz it’s not at all my usual genre and i’m scared of feeling disappointed. Based on the reviews i’ve been seeing the chance for this is very small tho.
    And of course that cover is absolutely gorgeous ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I feel like ‘wow’ was pretty much the only thought in my mind when I finished this book too! 🙂 Circe is just incredible. Madeline Miller has such a way of writing, and the research she puts into the Greek myths she writes about clearly shows. I feel like I learnt more of Greek mythology from her writing than I have anyone else. Her books are going to be an automatic add to my TBR list, and I’m not sure how she’s going to top Circe but I have no doubt she will (I thought the same about The Song of Achilles and she managed it!)
    Great review. 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I can’t wait to read this, although I’m a bit concerned that it might be too flowery language-wise for me – also that storyline structure sounds a bit all over the place. I sense it will either be a massive hit or a massive miss for me but I loved how passionate you were about it. I guess we can either fan girl together or have an interesting debate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fantastic! Ah fair enough- I didn’t think it was too flowery- but I’m not really the best judge, since I like flowery language 😉 And yeah that’s probably something to mind going in. But I really hope you end up loving it! (though I’ll understand if you don’t 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have heard so many amazing things about Circe and about the author in general. I’m happy to see that you loved this book! 😀 I adore myth retellings and I definitely plan on picking this book up. Side note: the cover for this book is gorgeous. Amazing review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m sort of ashamed to have passed on this book on release thinking that it could wait… 😛 Your review clearly tells me that it was a huge mistake. This sounds beautiful from A to Z!!! Even the hardcover is insanely amazing! Anything Greek-related easily captures my attention and this is an author I’ll have to visit as soon as possible! Fantastic review!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh boy. I have been waffling over this one! I don’t usually like Greek mythical tales, although I loved Amanda Bouchet’s Kingmaker series. I’ll admit that this one scares me just that little bit. Your review was wonderful and very insightful so I may pick it up. thanks for the great review!

    Like

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