Miller follows her impressive debut (The Song of Achilles) with a spirited novel about Circe’s evolution from insignificant nymph to formidable witch best known for turning Odysseus’s sailors into swine. Her narrative begins with a description of growing up the awkward daughter of Helios, the sun god. She does not discover her gift for pharmakeia (the art of using herbs and spells) until she transforms her first love, a poor fisherman, into a god. When he rejects her in favor of vain Scylla, Circe turns Scylla into a sea monster. Now considered dangerous, Circe is exiled to an island, where she experiments with local flora and fauna. After returning from a visit to Crete to help her sister give birth to the Minotaur, Circe is joined on the island by errant nymphs sentenced to do their penance in her service. By the time Odysseus’s ship arrives, winding its way home from the Trojan War, Circe reigns over a prosperous household. Welcome guests enjoy her hospitality; unwelcome guests are turned into wild pigs. Neither the goddess Athena nor the deadliest poison known to man makes Circe flinch. Weaving together Homer’s tale with other sources, Miller crafts a classic story of female empowerment. She paints an uncompromising portrait of a superheroine who learns to wield divine power while coming to understand what it means to be mortal. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Apr.)
Longlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction
Named one of the 'Best Books of 2018' by NPR, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, People, Time, Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Newsweek, the A.V. Club, Christian Science Monitor, Southern Living, and Refinery 29.
"Circe,' [is] a bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story that manages to be both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the
Odyssey as a hero in her own right."Alexandra Alter, New York Times
"One of the most amazing qualities of this novel [is]: We know how everything here turns out - we've known it for thousands of years - and yet in Miller's lush reimagining, the story feels harrowing and unexpected. The feminist light she shines on these events never distorts their original shape; it only illuminates details we hadn't noticed before."Ron Charles, Washington Post
gives voice to Circe as a multifaceted and evolving character...'Circe' is very pleasurable to read, combining lively versions of familiar tales and snippets of other, related standards with a highly psychologized, redemptive and ultimately exculpatory account of the protagonist herself."Claire Messud, New York Times Book Review
"The story of Circe's entanglement with Odysseus lasts far beyond the narrative of
"The Odyssey," making for compelling material to revisit. But ultimately it's as a character that Circe stands apart....Through her elegant,
psychologically acute prose, Miller gives us a rich female character who inhabits the spaces in between."
Colleen Abel, Minneapolis Star Tribune
gold-lit novel - told from the perspective of the witch whose name in Greek has echoes of a hawk and a weaver's shuttle - paints another picture: of a fierce goddess who, yes, turns men into pigs, but only because they deserve it."NPR.org
"so vivid, so layered, you could get lost in it... Whether or not you think you like Greek Mythology, this is just great storytelling. It feels cinematic." NPR's Here & Now
"Spellbinding..Miller has created a daring feminist take on a classic narrative; although the setting is a mystical world of gods, monsters, and nymphs, the protagonist at its heart is like any of us."O Magazine
"Miller's spell builds slowly, but by the last page you'll be in awe. In prose of dreamlike simplicity, she reimagines the myth of Circe."People
"Miller, with her academic bona fides and born instinct for storytelling, seamlessly grafts modern concepts of selfhood and independence to her mystical reveries of smoke and silver, nectar and bones."Entertainment Weekly
"This telling, in the sorceress's own words, is not the version we think we know."New York Times 'T Magazine'
"Miller gives voice to a previously muted perspective in the classics, forging a great romance from the scraps left to us by the ancients....Circe is, instead, a romp, an airy delight, a novel to be gobbled greedily in a single sitting."Aida Edemariam, Guardian
Madeline Miller's "Circe" - the gorgeous and gimlet-eyed follow-up to her Orange
Prize-winning first novel, "The Song of Achilles" - the goddess is young and romantic enough at the start to feel a tiny bit let down that she's not shackled to a rock like her uncle, Prometheus, getting her liver pecked out each day."
Laura Collins-Hughes, Boston Globe
Ambitious in scope, Circe is above all the chronicle of an outsider woman who uses her power and wits to protect herself and the people she loves, ultimately looking within to define herself. Readers will savor the message of standing against a hostile world and forging a new way."Shelf Awareness
"A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch...
[Circe is] a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller's dazzling second novel....Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse,
who had negligible use for their child....Expect Miller's readership to mushroom like one of Circe's spells. Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing
21st-century monsters."Kirkus, Starred Review
"An epic spanning thousands of years that's also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner."Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth
"With lyric beauty of language and melancholy evocative of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn", CIRCE asks all the big questions of existence while framing them in the life story of the famous goddess who had the magic of transformations. A veritable Who's Who of the gods of Olympus and the heroes of ancient Greece, Circe knows them all and we see them through her perceptive eyes. This is as close as you will ever come to entering the world of mythology as a participant. Stunning, touching, and unique."Margaret George, author of The Confessions of Young Nero
"Circe bears its own transformative magic, a power enabled by Miller's keen eye for beauty, adventure, and reinvention. Through the charms of a misfit heroine, the world of gods becomes stunningly alive, and the world of our own humanityits questions, loves, and bondsis illuminated. This book is an immense gift to anyone who reads to find their own bravery and quest." Affinity Konar, author of Mischling
"Madeline Miller, master storyteller, conjures Circe glowing and alive - and makes the Gods, nymphs and heroes of ancient Greece walk forth in all their armored splendor. Richly detailed and written with such breathtaking command of story, you will be held enchanted. A breathtaking novel."Helen Simonson, author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
"Circe is the utterly captivating, exquisitely written, story of an ordinary, and extraordinary,
woman's life" Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
"Written with power and grace, this enchanting, startling, gripping story casts a spell as strong and magical as any created by the sorceress Circe."Mary Doria Russell, author of Epitaph
Miller's re-imagining of the witch Circe from The
Odyssey makes for an intriguing, feminist adventure novel that is perfectly suited for the #TimesUp moment. Circe is also a smart read that has much to say about the long-term consequences of war and a culture that values violence and conquest over compassion and learning...Miller mines intriguing details from the original tale to imagine a rich backstory for Circe that allows readers to re-visit the world of Olympians and Titans in Greek mythology. From the court of the Titans, the reader meets Circe's parents, the god Helios and nymph Perse, and is introduced to a world of supernatural power players that is every bit as back-biting, gossip-filled and vicious as any episode of House of Cards."
May-Lee Chai, Dallas News
"'Circe' is a sentence-by-sentence miracle";Michigan Daily
Having reinterpreted Homer's Iliad in her Orange Prize-winning The Song of Achilles, Miller now turns her attention to the Odyssey from the perspective of Circe, the sorceress who changed Odysseus's men into swine. The daughter of the sun god Helios and the nymph Perse, Circe is despised by her parents and siblings for her less-than-divine abilities. Seeking comfort in human companionship, she discovers her own special powers of witchcraft when she turns Glaucus, the mortal man she loves, into a sea god. But Circe's tranformation of Scylla, her rival for Glaucos's affections, into a monster, leads to her banishment to the deserted island of Aiaia. Over the centuries, she hones her magical skills while encountering some of the most famous figures in classical mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus, Medea, and, of course, the crafty Odysseus. Along the way, Circe evolves into the powerful witch feared by the Olympian gods. But after a lifetime of lonely immortality, is this enough for Circe? Her final act of transformation will move and surprise readers. VERDICT This beautifully written and absorbing tale of gods and mortals will delight Miller's many fans and have them reaching for Edith Hamilton's Mythology. [See Prepub Alert, 10/22/17; "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/1/17.]—Wilda Williams, Library Journal
Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, mightiest of the Titans, was a peculiar child who had few of the gifts the demigods enjoyed, and she was despised by her parents and numerous sisters for her deficits. What she lacked in godlike ability, though, she compensated for with a gift for herbology and witchcraft. When she is rejected by her first love, the mortal Glaucos—who pines instead for the beautiful nymph Scylla—Circe casts a spell that turns Scylla into a hideous sea creature. For her transgression, Circe is banished by Zeus to an island, where she survives alone until Odysseus, "son of Laertes, the great traveler, prince of wiles and tricks," lands upon her shores and is seduced by her. Drawing on the mythology of the classical world, Miller deftly weaves episodes of war, treachery, monsters, gods, demigods, heroes, and mortals into her second novel of the ancient world (after the Orange Prize—winning The Song of Achilles). Prometheus and Medea are among those who also make an appearance here. VERDICT This absorbing and atmospheric read will appeal to lovers of Greek mythology.—Jane Henriksen Baird, formerly at Anchorage Public Library, AK
A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch."Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers." So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller's dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus' crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: "When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist." Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: "I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began." This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that "not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead." Circe's fascination with mortals becomes the book's marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside "the tonic of ordinary things." A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller's readership to mushroom like one of Circe's spells.Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.