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Reading Circe by Madeline Miller: A Tale Of Golden Witch Who Was Anything But Wicked

by Bia Ahmed, May 14, 2020

Following my personal yearly tradition of reading anything Greek mythology related in Ramadan, I was looking for a nice series to binge on when my friend recommended me to pick Circe by Madeline Miller, even though I wasn’t looking for a standalone I decided to give it a go and holy schmucks I’m so glad that I did!

Apart from this totally gorgeous cover that I fell for, the writing was spellbinding, I only recalled Circe from when I read Percy Jackson series years ago as the exiled witch of Aeaea who doled out dangerous poisons and turned men into pigs.

Miller breathed new life into this tale, there is a whole backstory and solid character building that is so nicely fleshed out that I was flabbergasted at how much she made me feel for this old witch. There are some characters that just stays with you, you know? Some for their uniqueness and how they inspire you to become a better version of yourself, others you find yourself forming a sort of kinship with, you understand their struggles on a personal level.

Circe, I believe would be the latter type of character for me, I started out at first truly resenting her, it was like looking at a distorted reflection of myself of parts that I want nothing more than to just get rid off. Her grovelling before other people to stay just to feel loved, her inability to stand up for herself and letting everyone take advantage of her.

She was a pathetic mess, and all I wanted to do was to reach through the book and shake her to stop being so naive, or hug her. Because of her being less beautiful than her siblings, the cruelty she endured for centuries she deserved none of that. She was born a disappointment for her family so she didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, she always remained a liability.

By the second half of the book, Circe as being an immortal has been alive for over thousand years, and from there the story takes a much darker turn, in this part Miller explores more on the topic of loneliness as she’s been exiled for such a long span of time, and the unfortunate events she faced at Aeaea, her own island that made her morph into the infamous witch we know her as.

ulysses-at-circe's-palace
ULYSSES AT PALACE OF CIRCE BY WILHELM SCHUBERT

Miller also included the hardships of motherhood in this. The way Circe transformed into this fierce spirit to protect her son felt like such a raw and exposed emotion the way it’s expressed. To read all the complexities and vulnerability of being a mother -that part was beautiful to read and added another dynamic to her character.

I adored Circe because she never saw herself as a victim or a damsel in distress. From the start, she knew it was an unfair world. However, even after so many hardships, she could still be kind and compassionate, only losing her wrath on deserving ones.

I’m delighted with how Miller decided to end the book on such a calming note. Circe finally stopped compromising or hiding because she desperately wanted to be loved and instead chose to tell Telemachus everything without fearing that he’d reject her.

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.

Circe by Madeline Miller

If you’re into Greek mythology, I’d suggest you to start reading this right away! There are so many tales intertwining within this book like the story of Prometheus and how he was eternally damned for stealing fire and giving it to humanity which started civilization, of the monster Scylla (a nymph who was turned into a sea monster) of Minotaur, Medea, Daedalus and Icarus and various other parts of Odyssey that I was delighted to read from Circe’s perspective and how much she was involved in those tales.

But if you are not much interested in mythological esoterica, I’d still suggest you give this book a chance, as it covers a variety of topics. It taught me so much about myself and made me realize how far I’ve come in life and how much longer I have to go. Circe’s motivation and perseverance will stay with me for a long time.

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