I just finished reading the book CIRCE by Madeline Miller. I love Greek myths, and I’ve always enjoyed the story of Odysseus. On his journey home, Circe was one of the more fascinating characters he met. And she’s a witch. Now, anyone who’s read my blog very long knows I’m fond of good witches, too. So this was a double win for me. And Circe WAS a good witch. His men deserved to be turned into pigs.
When I wrote urban fantasies, I used myths and witches in a lot of my stories. But this book is literary, so Circe’s journey involves character growth more than adventures and battles. And it explores what gives life meaning. Circe is a nymph, so she’s immortal. But the gods and goddesses she meets and who make up her family are shown mostly as petty. There are a few exceptions, but they’re rare. Most of them are full of pride, and they’re fickle. They live forever, but their lives don’t mean much.
Circe is her mother’s firstborn, but her mother doesn’t consider her beautiful enough. Neither does her father, so she’s the object of a lot of scorn. Her sister, however, and then her brother are radiantly attractive, but mean. Looks trump goodness of character every time in Helios’s halls. Immortality doesn’t deepen wisdom or kindness. It blunts it. The gods purposely abuse mortals, because they know when frightened, humans worship them more, not less. Thankfully, Circe sees this as the defect it is.
Circe tries to cope until she finally angers her father so much, she’s banned from his halls and sent to live on a small island. This island becomes her sanctuary, where she learns to develop her spells and grows stronger day by day. She learns lessons the hard way until she becomes a woman smart enough to defy the gods and get away with it. It’s a pleasure reading how she becomes true to herself, even when the odds are against her.
My Florida daughter recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad she did. The story made me wonder if imperfections are what make us grow to become the best we can be. In stories, characters without flaws are boring. Is that true in real life? And as always, Greek gods are shown as vain and thoughtless. A great combination for an interesting read.