This was a double book club book for me. My college book club picked it, and then my local club read it as well (because I suggested it).
So Book Club square on the Bingo for this one.
I was vaguely aware of the story of Circe from the Odyssey, she was a sorceress on an island that Odysseus and his ships stopped at, and she turned the men to pigs. This is (apparently) a feminist retelling. As it is a retelling of an old story, it is hard to know what is truly a spoiler.
The book starts with Circe’s childhood, as the child of a god and a nymph, how she came into her powers and how her choices see her exiled to the island. The book also anchors key points of the story to ancient and Greek history, talking to the interactions of mortals and gods. The behaviours of the gods are pretty unhappy, and the mortals are not much better.
Circe is exiled to an island where she provides help to passing sailors, who repay her by raping her. Thus begins her practice of turning men into pigs. She is able to use the resources of the island to become a stronger sorceress.
Some of the descriptions in the story are amazingly vivid and evocative, this was one of the elements I enjoyed. I did not enjoy the beginning, where it felt like the world kept being cruel to Circe. The ending also felt a little too pat, a little too wrapping everything up in a happy bow. The middle, where she is growing as a person and learning, is the best part.
It was interesting talking about this in the book club – i probably had the strongest Greek mythology knowledge, but i found the beginning really hard and depressing. I was definitely not the only one! I think there were also several of us who found the main character somewhat irritating.