Author: Madeline Miller
2021 Bingo squares: First person, Book club, Witches
Circe is the story of the titular character’s life and exploits in Greek mythology (you know her from The Odyssey where she turns Odysseus’s crew into pigs). It’s told from Circe’s own perspective, at some unknown point in the future as she reflects on her earlier life events with a quiet, almost slice-of-life style despite spanning hundreds of years of history and perhaps a dozen different Greek myths.
Daughter to Helios and Perse, Circe grows up among minor Greek immortals, including her siblings, most of whom treat her cruelly and taunt her, for reasons she doesn’t fully understand at the time. Perhaps due to her treatment, she has a constant fascination with mortals. After giving comfort to the condemned Prometheus, Circe is exiled to the island of Aiaia, where the majority of the novel will take place. Circe gets news about the world of gods and of mortals via visitors to Aiaia. As readers, our knowledge is even more distant: an older Circe is recounting for us how her younger self heard about the news, and as a result the novel has an almost dreamy quality to it.
Because the focus cannot be on events due to Circe’s exile (though many, many events do occur in the background), instead the majority of attention is spent on Circe’s musings about her relationships: with other immortals (especially her siblings), with mortals, with women, with men, with humans, with animals, with magic, with nature. She spends most of her time alone and introspective.
Partway through the novel, Odysseus arrives on Aiaia, and the events of the Odyssey come to pass. At this point, there is a bit more plot, but Circe remains primarily a quiet, slow journey through Circe’s mind. Don’t expect much to happen, but if you don’t mind being patience for a beautiful story, you’re in for a wonderful experience.