Review | Circe by Madeline Miller

Utterly enchanting. 5 stars.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

Circe is the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, a beautiful naiad. Yet from the moment of her birth, she is an outsider in her father’s halls, where the laughter of gossiping gods resounds. Named after a hawk for her yellow eyes and strange voice, she is mocked by her siblings – until her beloved brother Aeëtes is born. 

Yet after her sister Pasiphae marries King Midas of Crete, Aeëtes is whisked away to rule his own island. More isolated than ever, Circe, who has never been divine enough for her family, becomes increasingly drawn to mortals – and when she meets Glaucus, a handsome young fisherman, she is captivated. Yet gods mingle with humans, and meddle with fate, at their peril. 

In Circe, Madeline Miller breathes life once more into the ancient world, with the story of an outcast who overcomes scorn and banishment to transform herself into a formidable witch. Unfolding on Circe’s wild, abundant island of Aiaia, where the hillsides are aromatic with herbs, this is a magical, intoxicating epic of family rivalry, power struggles, love and loss – and a celebration of female strength in a man’s world.

My take:

I give very few books 5 stars. For me, a 4-star book is very very good, but a 5-star book has an indescribable something extra and I want to rave about it to everyone.

Back in 2016, Miller’s previous book, The Song of Achilles, was one of 3 books I gave a top rating. So you could say I was the ideal customer for this book. But I also went in with very high expectations which could easily have been disappointed. So I’m thrilled to say that Miller has done it again: Circe is sublime.

The world Miller creates is so captivating if I’d had the chance I’d have read Circe straight through without taking my eyes from the page. I suspect this is largely due to the wonderful first-person voice of Circe. Her tone is clear and direct but also contains a convincing tint of other-worldiness appropriate to a goddess, although her story is more human than you might imagine.

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My top 10 books of 2016

I only gave three books 5 stars this year. But, happily, I gave seven books 4.5 stars which means I can do a top 10!

I read and reviewed 117 this year. Only three of them got 5 stars. I think I may be getting pickier with my 5 stars as I get older!

There were also seven books which came very close to those elusive 5 stars, so I’ve included them here too.

Click on the book title for my full review. Click on the book cover to go to Goodreads.

Here we go!

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WWW Wednesday 29th June 2016

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This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Wait! There’s more. Click to find out what I’ve been reading!

Review | The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Beyond wonderful. Please read this book. 5/5.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller book cover

The blurb: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

My take:

In case you don’t know anything about Achilles’ story, I will keep the following deliberately vague.

This is a beautiful book. I lack the vocabulary to do it justice.

The Song of Achilles is one of those rare wonders: a narrative which weaves a world around you which is so rich and compelling you don’t want to leave it. It doesn’t matter if you know everything or nothing about Achilles because this imagining is original. We are given an intensely personal, insider’s view of events which are usually the distant stuff of legends: Achilles’ boyhood and the Greek siege of Troy.

Almost the entire story is told by Patroclus, Achilles’ companion. We watch him and Achilles as they grow from young boys to men, and their relationship forms the core of a story around which orbit gods and goddesses, dryads and centaurs, kings and warriors.

It took Miller 10 years to write this book and I can see why: the result of her hard work is practically perfect.

Overall: you know you’ve read a 5* book when you finish and would dearly love to go back to the beginning and read it again straight away. One warning though: while this is beautiful, it’s also heart-rending stuff. Probably best to wait until you’re in a happy place to read it.


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

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