12th April 2018
Circe – by Madeline Miller
Well we all know the legends of Circe the witch – a cruel seductress who turned desperate men into pigs – but who was the woman behind the myths, and what might her motivations have been? Madeline Miller skilfully weaves this story, showing us a side of Circe that inspires empathy and is deeply relatable.
Circe is the daughter of Helios the sun god and a water nymph, but as a young girl she little resembles either. Always feeling an outsider in her own realm, she turns to the mortal world for companionship. When Circe experiments with witchcraft, desperate for her human lover to become immortal, she is punished with exile to a lonely island. Despite her banishment Circe has a place in many of the most legendary stories. She is there for the birth of the Minotaur, she befriends Daedalus, curses Skylla the nymph into a nightmare monster, takes Odysseus as a lover, and stands defiant against Athena. Circe is no two-dimensional villain, but a vivid and determined woman struggling to find her place in the world and her path through life.
Madeline Miller does an amazing job of exploring this oft sidelined character, giving her a backstory, motivations, and emotions rarely granted to female antagonists. In truth, after reading this book I can barely bring myself to think of Circe as even an antagonist, let alone the villain she is often portrayed as. Miller’s writing is an absolute art form – evocative, beautiful, and vivid. I cannot recommend her highly enough!