Book 27 on My Book List 2019
”Of all the mortals on the earth, there are only a few the gods will ever hear of. Consider the practicalities. By the time we learn their names, they are dead. They must be meteors indeed to catch our attention. The merely good: you are dust to us.“
I thought long and hard what to write about “Circe” but when it comes down to it the first words that always pop into my mind are: “I loved this so damn much!!!” *lol* Which is neither especially eloquent nor particularly significant. So what to do? How to describe my love for this book in words that would do this masterpiece (and yes, in my opinion it truly is a masterpiece) justice?
”I felt myself tremble, but I would not let him see it. Great gods smell fear like sharks smell blood, and they will devour you for it just the same.”
I guess I might start with what it is not. “Circe” is definitely not like “The Song of Achilles”! To be honest those books couldn’t have been any more different even if they tried. Whilst the main topics of “The Song of Achilles” were the Trojan War and the undying love *weeps* between Patroclus and Achilles the major themes in “Circe” were her solitary life in exile and her encounter with Odysseus. This setting alone makes for an entirely different story and sets a completely different pace. The tale of Circe is slow and unfolds over time, the many centuries that pass away giving the reader not only a good sense of the change of the world but also an insight to our heroine’s lonely life. Just like the love between Patroclus and Achilles was almost tangible in every single page from “The Song of Achilles” Circe’s solitude is palpable in every written line.
”I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”
The remarkable thing about her is that she didn’t let it get her down. She might have been in exile and shunned by her family but she never got bitter because of it. Quite the contrary. She took what she had and changed it according to her needs and she adapted to her new life and made the best out of it. And even more important, she defied the gods by doing so. It might have been small gestures and little actions but with every breath she took she refused to give them any satisfaction. Circe was a strong-willed, skilled and formidable woman and I couldn’t help but love her for it!
”We lit no tapers. The room was dark and warm from the day’s heat. Shadows draped the bed. No frogs sounded, no birds called. It was as if we had found the still heart of the universe. Nothing moved except for us.“
Despite her bravery and strong will it’s undeniable that she was a very lonely woman though. This however doesn’t mean that she didn’t know love. There were quite a few lovers and mortals she didn’t only take to her bed but also into her heart and whenever she did it; it left a mark on her soul. Circe loved deeply and gently and she always felt compassion for those men that came to her island and crossed her path. Well, at least until one day that changed everything.
”They moaned and squealed, and pressed their snouts to the earth. We are sorry, we are sorry.
Sorry you were caught, I said. Sorry that you thought I was weak, but you were wrong.”
And tell you what? I could understand her anger and wrath, because I think this was the first time she truly realized what had been done to her. The gods didn’t intervene on her behalf and left her to her own devices instead and the trust she had given to those who had needed her help was betrayed in the worst possible way. Add to that her acute loneliness and you get a goddess that becomes embittered and vindictive.
”And so,” he said, “which do you change, and which do you let go?”
“I change them all,” I said. “They have come to my house. Why should I care what is in their hearts?”
He had smiled and lifted his cup to me. “Lady, you and I are in accord.”
Who knows what would have happened if Odysseus would have never come to her island? Which kind of person would she have become? I guess we’ll never find out and I’m pretty sure that’s good the way it is. And here comes another scene that brought me immense joy, the moment Circe and Odysseus meet for the very first time. XD Gods, I loved their conversation so much! The tension and the way they tried to gauge each other’s reactions by talking about seemingly simple things! This was so masterfully done, I can’t even! One of the best book moments ever, I swear! <333
”I confess I’m in awe,“ he said, „they’re never so quiet for me. You must have had quite an effect on them.“
I heard a humming, like before a spell is cast. His gaze was a honed blade. All this had been prologue. As if we were in a play, we stood.
I’ve always loved Odysseus and I’ve been a huge fan of him ever since I read the Odyssey. I know he is a hero with many flaws and more morally grey than anything else, but this was always the reason why I loved him so much. He’s human, he’s intelligent, skilled, sly, he’s honourable (most of the time) and he knows how to manipulate people in order to get what the wants. Some might say he’s a dangerous man and they’d be completely right with it. So what’s not to love? *lol*
”The world was made of mysteries, and I was only another riddle among the millions. I did not answer him, and though he pretended frustration, yet I began to see that it pleased him in some strange way. A door that did not open at his knock was a novelty in its own right, and a kind of relief as well. All the world confessed to him. He confessed to me.”
Well, anyway! Those two meet and they clash! And yes, I savoured every single moment of it. Their conversations were really intriguing and it’s obvious Odysseus had a notable impact on Circe’s life. In more ways than one, I might add. ;-P Considering the circumstances this actually sounded kind of dirty now. *lol* Never mind my particular choice of words. XD
It’s undeniable that Madeline Miller has a way with words and no matter which kind of story she tells, she always seems to be able to turn it into gold. I loved how she managed to weave so many different parts of Greek mythology into “Circe’s” tale and I adored that our heroine was a constant part of it all. The pacing of the book might have been very slow, but this didn’t take away any of my enjoyment. Whilst the ending of “The Song of Achilles” made me ugly cry, “Circe’s” ending had an entirely different effect and gave me a sense of contentment and peace. This was definitely another one of Madeline Miller’s masterpieces and all that’s left to say is that I can really recommend it! 😉