It was wonderful! Beautiful prose and a fascinating look at myths and gods from the point of view of Circe, daughter of Helios, who drove his chariot of the sun across the sky each day. Circe (unloved child, nymph, sorceress, witch) exiled to her island tells her version of the gods and heroes and monsters she knew.
Circe has a depth that the other, more powerful gods lack. She has the ability of introspection; she makes mistakes and regrets them. She resents the power of both the Titans and the Olympians and stands against them as best she can.
Her first rebellion was a kindness to Prometheus when--as a timid child--she brought him nectar in secret. Prometheus, the god who aided mortals, is aided by the young Circe; a theme develops.
A few excerpts...
At one point, Circe speaks of her beautiful loom, a gift from Daedalus, innovator and craftsman: "I have it still. It sits near my hearth and has even found its way into the songs. Perhaps that is no surprise, Poets like such symmetries."
Witch Circe skilled at spinning spells and threads alike, at weaving charms and cloths: Who am I to spoil an easy hexameter?"
She recalls a song she has heard of her meeting with Odysseus: "I was not surprised by the portrait of myself: the proud witch undone before the hero's sword, kneeling and begging for mercy. Humbling women seems to be a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep."
Later, in a conversation with Penelope, Penelope tells Circe: "I am from Sparta. We know about old soldiers there. The trembling hands, the startling from sleep. The man who spills his wine every time the trumpets blow." I like that passage because I never thought of the Greek warriors suffering from PTSD, but of course they did.
Madeline Miller's Circe is one of my favorite retellings of ancient myths. I love the way different authors interpret the stories: telling the tales from one POV or another, adhering to the original or expanding and enhancing incidents, and sometimes, changing outcomes entirely.
There are also some other wonderful retellings available: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood and Weight by Jeanette Winterson are also great examples of modern mythic retellings; these are much shorter, condensed, but powerful. Antigo Nick is a campy, amusing modern translation of Antigone by Anne Carson.
Do you have a favorite myth or modern retelling?
Read in April. Blog post scheduled for June 26.
Historical Fiction/Myth. July 10, 2018. Print length: 400 pages.