Book Review: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller
Published: April 10, 2018
Genre: Greek Mythology Retelling
FLW Rating: 3/5

I’ve never seen a more polarizing book gain so much popularity. I feel like that’s all I need to say about this book, but of course it’s not. Circe is a Greek mythology retelling, and I’ve gotten the feeling that people who know and like Greek mythology love this book and those who took a risk, hoping they’d be able to learn some things along the way hate it. I didn’t like it. I found glimmers of hope when I would recognize a character from my middle school English class, but overall I felt a little lost.

Circe is a greek mythology retelling from the perspective of the nymph/witch/enchantress, Circe. (I literally had to google that to make sure I got it right.) After Circe is banished from her home city for using her witchly powers, she sets up a home on a deserted island. The story unfolds as she lives there for millenia and recieves several visitors – some who bring her fortune, and some who do not.

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I have some very strong feelings about this book.

  1. Nostalgia is key. I literally only enjoyed the parts where I recognized a character from my middle school Greek Mythology classes. I don’t think  enough context is given for the unfamiliar reader to feel comfortable in reading this book.
  2. Knowing there is a glossary in the back is very important. There should seriously be this disclaimer on page one! It took me until about 2/3 of the way through, when I decided to check how many pages were left, to discover that there’s a glossary in the end. By that point I had gotten by with my google home or context clues, but had felt pretty frustrated.
  3. The first one hundred fifty pages is world building. If you’ve made it this far in keeping up with the characters, I would advise you not to be too discouraged that nothing has really happened, despite centuries passing like seconds. The action is still to come! BUT if by this point you’re not bonding with the characters, I think at this point it’s ok to DNF.

I know this review was a little more straightforward than normal (and really more of advisory), but as I said in the beginning, I’ve never seen such a polarizing book before and I have a lot of strong feelings about it! I think knowing the above would have helped me to enjoy this book more, so I just wanted to make sure you have the best experience possible.

As a final take, I’d say that I don’t think this book did a good enough job with providing me the context I needed to understand the characters or the story. If that was going to be the case, I think either the glossary should be more available (at least mentioned at the beginning) or readers who don’t know a lot about Odysseus should be warned to stay away from this book. The hype for this one was a little too contagious, so I think a lot of people who probably shouldn’t read this book decided to pick it up, and, I being one of them, were a little dissapointed.

P.S. If you feel like you want to dip your toe in the Greek Mythology pool, but this one doesn’t sound like it’s for you, try Silence of the Girls! I found that one a lot more approachable

Book Review: Silence of the Girls

Author: Pat Barker
Genre: Greek Mythology Retelling
Pub Date: September 4, 2018
FLW Rating: 4/5

When I was first introduced to Greek mythology in the eighth, I loved Greek Mythology, but I remember finding it more difficult to read in high school. For that reason Greek mythology retellings have seemed daunting to me, so when others such as Michelle Miller’s Circe first came out, I avoided them. For whatever reason, I decided to select this book as my Book of the Month and luckily, it was so well written that the story was incredibly readable without losing historical accuracy (not that I would know, but I’ve read some positive reviews in that light online!).

The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Illiad from the perspective of one of the female slaves captured by the Greeks. When the Greeks take a city, they kill all the men (including pregnant women who may be carrying a male baby) and take all the women home as slaves or prizes. This is the story of one of those women, from the battle that destroyed her city, through a large portion of the war.

This book was a step outside of my comfort zone, but I’m all about that right now. If you’re hesitant about this book because you don’t know much about greek mythology – don’t be, Barker writes this book for everyone! – or because you don’t like magical realism – rest assured, all of the characters are humans who pray to gods, but they don’t have any actual magical powers – or because you’re nervous about sexual abuse of the women – there is some discussion of sexual abuse, but I didn’t find anything cringeworthy and I can be sensitive –  I say forget your fears and go for it. This is a beautiful unique book that is 100% worth reading!

Have you read this? Let me know what you thought!