When (I read it): Late night treat-time only, when the pull of the book matched the pull of (spoiler warning) my bed.
Where (I read it): In bed, where my cocoon allowed me to sink in without expectation or judgment.
Why (I read it): A long-ignored predilection for mythology combined with a general crowd gaga-factor.
How (I read it): With great anticipation, bought many months ago to read when I could appreciate it. Finally got there.
In preface, I’m three books read by the first day of this third month, and only just starting my first ever CBR review. For the last six months I’ve been working to rekindle a love and habit of reading for pleasure, beyond personal growth. Three of those months saw books consumed without concern for wrangling that… remnant vaporous cloud of feeling; this is my challenge now and I was brilliant(/s) enough to A) wait a few months to do so, and B) pick a few doozies to inaugurate this parade, (The Goldfinch, Spinning Silver, and Circe). Here comes the awkward.
Circe is freshest in my brain and I’m most enamored of it. My familiarity with most of the classic mythology has atrophied so the feeling of being a mortal fly on this wall was immensely rewarding, what with its rotating host of ancient Greek celebrity and casual, blasé grandeur. Always grounded, she navigates her life and defies the sentence of her fate through the lens of this spare, sharp spear of prose, herself an unwilting, pricking bloom. No hyperbole or insult, that simple text could evoke this imagery, so pointedly, was a revelation.
“… gods are born of ichor and nectar, their excellences already bursting from their fingertips. So they find their fame by proving what they can mar: destroying cities, starting wars, breeding plagues and monsters. All that smoke and savor rising so delicately from our altars. It leaves only ash behind.”
In short summary, a daughter of the great Titan Helios is cursed with the company of jackholes. She becomes a witch as the world has never known and it opens-up her options.
Missing vital backstories informing this narrative, I lack the ability to do justice for this wonder. Having not read Homer, Ovid, et al., only learning these tales through cultural osmosis, there are huge tracts of knowledge I need to catch up on, though the story does not make it necessary. A welcome “further reading” section is provided by the author that I’ll make great use of, as well as a handy-dandy “cast of characters” section. Miller’s turned me onto belated study of the classics; I’ve learned of the various translations and am excited to delve. For that, too, I’m very grateful.
In truth, it felt like a modern, technical translation of millennia old texts by way of the varied versions of Homer’s works, rather than a creative expounding of her life, the import of her existence. My expectation is, it’s a more generous telling than any she’d been given throughout history. I understand Circe was rarely portrayed as a whole woman, but a trope-ridden sorceress etched into our psyches through millennia. The Circe that lives in this book does combine both in a way pride is never truly in doubt, that her birthright does not necessarily stem from her lineage but is earned from her centuries of toil.
It’s also difficult to review such a poignant, socially relevant story which speaks to matters outside my lane. This said, scorned Circe finds the peace of her existence in the spaces between violent encounters, gratifying in that she does not experience pure torture and challenge throughout the narrative. She lives a full, consequential life within these pages, and would wear the goddess’s role of a figurehead naturally, that of empowerment and earned pride. The tale deserves a *content warning*, as there’s a reason she’s known for turning men to swine.
I’ve been choosing my recent readings fairly well, this shares top-billing with a few others, haunting me. Having goosed old fascinations, not only of the tales but of the art of storytelling, I adored this. In my relative inexperience I’m at a loss to point to negatives. I ate this up. Maybe when I’m better read, it’ll be worth reviewing again and expanding. The expectation is it’ll remain a five star. I look forward to my next visits with Circe.
“I had been old and stern for so long, carved with regrets and years like a monolith. But that was only a shape I had been poured into. I did not have to keep it.”
(Pictured: “Circe Invidiosa” – John William Waterhouse)