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Madeline Miller’s latest venture into Greek myth resulted in Circe, released in 2018, a retelling of the story of the eponymous witch most famous for turning Odysseus’ crew into pigs. In fact, that is pretty much all there is to her story in The Odyssey, the text wherein she is most frequently mentioned -- and that’s precisely why Miller chose her as the subject of this novel. Disappointed in Circe’s lack of page-time, Miller decided to create a biography of the character, focusing especially on her relationship with Odysseus, and later, his sons Telemachus and Telegonus. The sparse information we have of Circe’s life in the surviving myths is exactly why its not very straightforward to rate the accuracy of this novel -- for the most part, the big events of Circe’s life remain the same as in myth; it is the gaps in between that Miller focuses on.

God knows we have enough feminist retellings of Greek myths but this one is a worthy addition to that genre. Miller’s book really gives Circe a voice, an in-depth backstory that connects with other aspects of Greek myth, and makes a really interesting character of a figure that most of us perceive as an afterthought to the greater narrative of Odysseus’ story. The story of Odysseus is not sidelined here either, but rather, put into a new light; the Odysseus we see is true to the myth, through Circe’s eyes we get to see his immense genius, his heroism and bravery, but also the great cruelty and deception he was capable of and famed for. Miller also has an excellent way of handling gods that is rarely seen in modern retellings; authors tend either make the gods arrogant and stupid or intelligent and likeable. Miller does not fall into this trend, her gods are spiteful, unlikable, pompous, and arrogant but also awe-inspiring, intelligent, and terrifying, just as the gods are depicted in myth.



Accuracy: 4/5


Entertainment: 5/5