Circe by Madeline Miller: A Modern Take on Greek Mythology

Taking from Greek mythology and turning it into something fresh, Madeline Miller delivers a masterpiece of a novel with Circe.

We’ve all heard and read the mighty stories of Greek gods and witches. They’ve all been ingrained into our minds from an early age for good reason. It’s interesting to read about these warriors with infinite powers and wisdom trying and succeeding in their otherworldly adventures. What Madeline Miller does with this novel is that she turns an all-too-familiar story into something new. Lots of mythological figures appear as well alongside the main character Circe. If any of this sounds the least bit interesting, then this novel is a gold mine for you. 


Circe as a Character 

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Photo courtesy of the brand

The enchantress Circe is a goddess in Greek mythology. She has always been infamous for her witchery and is portrayed as an evil goddess. Her magic allows her to change creatures into something else entirely. She turns beautiful gods into hideous monsters that are deeply disgusting to look at or think about. She has been somewhat of a victim of sexist writing throughout the years. Circe has been portrayed as predatory and as someone who uses their power only for the worse. She takes advantage of everyone around her and when things don’t go her way she curses creatures. 

Within the book context, she is a much-developed character. This was very much needed by all accounts. This character has never before been fleshed out this way. We see her humble beginnings and her rise to being a powerful witch. If you know her story and the mythology around her, this book will naturally be a feast for your eyes. There are so many recognizable gods and mystical creatures. So many familiar stories only told from a new and interesting perspective this time. However, if you don’t know much of anything about Circe beforehand, then the enjoyment will still be very much there. There’s no denying that Madeline Miller does a wonderful job in explaining everything that’s needed in order to comprehend the story in great detail. 

Circe’s family surroundings are so captivating. Reading about Helios and Perse, about how they treated their children, in particular Circe, is fascinating. Madeline takes a slightly different approach to Homer in regards to Circe. One thing’s for certain though, Circe has never been more interesting. The way Madeline takes matters into her own hands and turns this story dominated by male gratification into a feminist story with convoluted moral dilemmas is a huge achievement. There’s a reason why this novel was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019. 


Impact of Circe

There will undoubtedly be a movie or TV show adaptation coming soon enough. The story of the novel lends itself to be very adequate and perfect for an on-screen retelling. Telling such a familiar tale and turning Circe into a powerful feminist icon is something that only an accomplished, yet new, writer like Madeline Miller could do. 

Despite the grand story levels that the novel revolves around, ultimately, it truly is about a woman’s story struggling with similar things every woman does. Things, like not being taken seriously from an early age, being overlooked, and not being appreciated enough, are all-too-common feelings. 

Circe has been popular ever since its release and its popularity only keeps growing as word-of-mouth keeps spreading about how good of a book it actually is. This is the kind of book that you read, it mesmerizes you, and then you can’t wait to tell your friends about it. A huge win for Madeline Miller and a joy of a read for anyone lucky enough to experience these pages of literal magic. 


Photo: matrioshka/Shutterstock

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