Circe coverCirce
Madeline Miller
Little, Brown and Company (April 10, 2018), 400 pages
Kindle edition $13.99, Amazon hardcover $17.33

I generally read books on my iPad Kindle app, and I usually only pull out my iPad in the evenings after we have read our newspapers. I read the hardcover edition of this book, as it was in the house since Terry had read it. That meant I might pick it up at any point throughout the day, which I did.

Madeline Miller has degrees in the classics, that is the study of the Greek and Latin languages and Greek and Roman literature, history and archaeology. She made superb use of that knowledge in her first novel, The Song of Achilles, as she does here. Both books are written in the first person, and both in the voice of a minor character in Greek mythology: Patroclus, companion of Achilles, in the first and the witch Circe in this book.

In both books Miller stays true to the mythology that we have while expanding, filling in, and speculating. In the Odyssey of Homer the story of Circe is one episode in the expansive epic, but Miller makes en entire novel out of the character, the daughter of the Titan Helios and Perse, a minor nymph. In this book we see many of the figures in Greek mythology including Athena, Hermes, Daedalus, the Cretan king Minos, and others.

Much of the novel involves Circe and her relationship with Odysseus. While early on the Odysseus that we see is very much the wily trickster that we know from the Odyssey and other mythology, the Odysseus she portrays after his return to Ithaca is that of a bitter, unhappy man. The end of the book is, well, a surprise and an interesting speculation on how Circe might have ended up.

If you enjoy mythology you may well find this novel engrossing.

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