Unlike the rest of the world (or so it occasionally seems), I haven’t read The Song of Achilles, mostly due to my being possession of a fiery hatred of Achilles that tends to ruin anything he happens to be mentioned in. However, I did note all of the squealing going on around it and so, when people started talking about Circe, promptly splurged on it. I was not disappointed.
Taking another figure from the myths – one mostly known for turning Odysseus’ men into pigs when they stopped off at her island on their way home from Troy – Miller fleshes Circe into an utterly spellbinding character in a book so engrossing that I put off doing anything else so that I could devour it whole.
Daughter of the sun deity, Helios, and a nymph, Circe only rates as a minor deity with nothing in the way of real powers. Barely fitting in with her more brilliant siblings, let alone the rest of the gods who find the very sound of her less than divine voice unbearable, she’s soon banished to the island of Aiaia where she develops her talent for witchcraft, which comes in rather handy – she’s not always alone on the island, and in between bouts of crushing loneliness more than one visitor (not all of them friendly) finds themselves on Aiaia. And so, as the centuries pass, we also get to meet more incredible characters drawn from the myths, and see them with fresh eyes and from a female perspective.
When I really love something I always find it a little difficult to articulate why, but put simply Circe is beautifully written and, despite dealing frequently with the divine, felt incredibly personal. I loved it so much that I’m now even considering putting my Achilles-hate to one side to read more of Miller’s work.