Tag Archives: greek mythology

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Hachette USA
ISBN: 978-0316556347
Genre: Mythology, Literary Fiction, Greek Mythology
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I have never followed Greek Mythology with great fervor. In fact, even while I was in school and college, these myths did not interest me much. Till after, when I started reading The Iliad and the Odyssey that my interest levels peaked and there was no turning back. Also, might I add the various retellings – from “The Penelopiad” by Margaret Atwood to Ilium by Dan Simmons (a lesser-known work but a work of sheer beauty) to also the funny “Gods Behaving Badly” by Marie Phillips and then “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller happened and changed it all, I suppose.

I read “The Song of Achilles” and was floored by it. And now her brand-new book “Circe” – to me is even better. I also tend to think her craft has worked way better when it comes to this one. Circe has always been thought of as the dangerous siren from Homer’s Odyssey who lured sailors to their deaths with her seductive song. Madeline Miller changes that perception and manages to make her more human (ironic, isn’t it?) than just be someone cold and distant.

Madeline Miller makes Circe’s life real, with motivators, with passion, life experiences that made her who she was. There is no justification and no sides are taken. Miller steers clear from all of that. There are shades of grey which are present in almost every character in the book – from Helios – Circe’s father (Titan God of the Sun) or Perse (her mother, an Oceanid naiad), to her siblings who are cruel to her (this was one of the major reasons of Circe being who she turned out to be), and all the other nymphs who are seemingly lovelier than Circe.

Circe turns to witchcraft when she makes Glaucos (a mortal) a god, and even more so when Glaucos falls in love with another nymph. “Pharmaka” or witchcraft is frowned upon by all gods and goddesses and this is how Circe is banished to the island of Aiaia to live a solitary life. It is here that she practices her powers of witchcraft and excels. It is here that her life begins (as is also mentioned in the Odyssey).

I love how Miller uses the story of Circe to make so many points – feminism, alienation, acceptance, loss of love and not being able to fit in. Madeline Miller also didn’t restrict the book to mainly being Circe’s story. It is also about the other mythological characters that Circe encounters – Prometheus, Daedalus, Icarus, Hermes, Athena, Penelope and more and all the other gods and mortals. It is also through them that Miller shows us various emotions and sides to Circe, thus leading her to actively participate in their myths as well.

“Circe” might be a retelling and may not be for everyone (more so if you are a purist when it comes to myths) but it sure did work for me. All in all, it was a great read, with everything falling in place – from the plot to the characters to the way Madeline has written the story – with not a single dull moment. Will sure keep you turning the pages.

 

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Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

Firstly you should know this book took me f-o-r-e-v-e-r to read. This is shocking to me. I am a very fast reader and for this size book I would normally have read about two to four hours tops. I knew when I was ten hours in that, that the book was unusual. The blurb describing the book gives you the story already. I won’t re-hash. The concept of Angels and humans having offspring is certainly intriguing. The intersection of myth, religion, and fantasy caught my eye and I simply had to read this one.

As I started reading I found myself getting quite bogged down in the amount of detail the author provides for seemingly mundane things — like floors, or walls, unimportant people and locations. In fact so much detail I felt as if I was drowning in it. I had a hard time keeping focused on the story as I was often disoriented. It felt like four words were used where one would suffice. E.G. I could describe the convent to someone so well they could likely find it on a boat ride down the Hudson. Yet I couldn’t say much about how the angelology society could remain secret for so long and how it could co-exist in our world or even how people could be drawn to it or find out about it. There doesn’t seem to be the equivalent of a magical letter dropped off by an owl for any of these angelologists. I wanted to know more about this aspect.


Slowness in reading is not necessarily bad–just makes for longer reading sessions. Not a problem if the book holds my interest and this one did-at times. I was absorbed by the idea that there could be this evil shadow in our world–moving among us unseen and unknown but for a few staunch defenders of humanity, themselves flawed and conflicted.

Unfortunately I felt that this whole world of Angelology (which is sort of similar to the wizarding world in Harry Potter in that there is something humans don’t know of that lives either with them or adjacent to them) just wasn’t that plausible. That left me treating it like more of a fantasy novel and less like a dual-worlds novel. To be honest I was looking forward to it being more of a world inside our own type. In a way it almost read similar to a political conspiracy thriller–the idea that there is a group of people (or things) controlling the rest of us.

Many of the characters seemed lackluster, as if they were wooden and lifeless. Some of their motivations were unclear which I found confusing. There was certainly enough space to expound on the motives of more of the characters but often you get just a glimpse and then the window is closed and the blinds pulled. Oddly unsatisfying but curiosity inducing. In spite of all this the overall concept still kept me intrigued but sometimes I literally had to force myself to keep reading.

I felt like I was trying to sift through facts and descriptive text to find that nugget that imparted knowledge and wisdom and propelled the story forward. Flatly I didn’t really like any of the characters that much — they didn’t inspire much in me at all. The villain? Not really villainous. The heroine? Bland and uninspiring. You get the picture.

I will say that it did pick up about three quarters of the way and by the end I was reading much faster–far more engaged. The last 50 pages or so moved very quickly- at a pace that kept your interest and got rid of some of the superfluous wording seen earlier in the book.

Although the ending was not as satisfying as I had hoped it did pull up my review rating. There was a twist that I had considered earlier on and discarded–kudos to the author for that. Even though it was cringe worthy it was certainly plot worthy in my opinion.

Overall I’m still kind of confused about how I feel about this book. I guess I would say I was sort of absorbed in it in spite of some pretty significant shortcomings. The reason that I couldn’t give it 5 stars was two-fold: that I didn’t find myself enamored of any of the characters enough to be super invested in them (except Verlaine who I mostly found oddly appealing although consistently strange) and because the world lacked some level of believability. Although rich it was distant.

Although seemingly well described it was bereft somehow of strong attachment or feeling. Of the type where when things happen you don’t say wow you just keep reading. After completion I don’t think I’d want to be part of this world and maybe we aren’t meant to–it is a far darker tale then I normally read and enjoy.

Angelology; Trussoni, Danielle; Viking Adult; $27.95