Hello and Happy Saturday! It’s bank holiday weekend here (woohoo!) which usually means lots of tea and cake and people bustling about in the sunshine on Newland Avenue or on the Marina here in Hull, but a) coronavirus and b) the weather means thats not happening! It’s turned very chilly here and I’ve just switched the heating back onto ‘auto’ from ‘off’, I have a bodysuit and jeans on and I’ve just dusted off my favourite boots. It’s basically September in all but name. I’ve loved the hot Summer days but honestly very happy now that its a bit chillier..it’s an excuse for cuddly jumpers scarves and (more) tea and blankets!
So whilst I will be seeing my friends and my mum this weekend, I happy to report that MY WEEKEND IS ALL BOOKED! I’ve just started a new read which has absolutely captured me so I’ll be spending lots of time in the pages snuggled up, I hope you will be too, no matter the weather where you are!
Recently I’ve been finding that through Instagram, book club and talking to my other book blogger friends and readers, my go to genres are changing. Books I used to go for where mainly ‘chick lit’ rom coms, spy novels and thrillers, but recently I’ve been finding myself more and more interested in fantasy and historical fiction.
One book I would never have picked up for sure is my next read – it’s a novel that had had a whole load of publicity and rave reviews back when it was published in 2018, but I stayed away because of the genre and to be honest I hate reading books that have big hype as I usually find they’re a bit of a let down. However my lovely friend Danielle recently offered to lend me her copy which I gratefully accepted and finally picked up from my TBR pile on my bookshelf – I’ll let you know now, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it.
CIRCE, BY MADELINE MILLER
*Review contains very mild spoilers
Is there a more aesthetically pleasing eye catching front cover? I love this design, it’s reflective and looks amazing on any shelf. Besides the front cover though, as stated above this is not a book I would have usually picked up to read myself. That’s because it’s a retelling of Greek Mythology, which I have never been interested in, don’t understand and can’t relate to. If this is also you DO NOT CLICK TO GO BACK! This review is exactly for people like you and I.
The story follows the goddess Circe, daughter of the Titan Helios, the almighty powerful god of the sun and her mother Perse, a gorgeous nymph. Circe sadly is neither, born with a mortal voice, average looks and no known power of her own. She is cast aside by her parents, not given the love or attention that her siblings Aeetes, Pasiphae or Perses receive so easily. No-one notices her or cares for her time or affection; until one day Circe accidentally discovers the power within herself that she did not know she held and one that threatens the Gods. As a result, she is banished to the island of Aiaia for an eternity.
Firstly, the writing of this book is masterful. Although some of the names are difficult to get your tongue round, the world of fantasy and unknown beings are brought to the pages with ease by the author, it was weirdly believable. Every detail of the mystical gods and beings Miller describes I could see in my mind. This helped me massively as someone that doesn’t know anything about mythology and quickly put me at ease with the text. You would presume that to read a story about greek mythology that you would have to have some sort of background knowledge or interest in it, but I am really pleased to report that you need neither. The mythology is woven into the story much like a backdrop; the characters are those told in myth but are introduced as genuine characters within the story. They are not placed in order to name drop, but easily fit within the pages of the story told as naturally as any other work of fiction. It does not feel forced in any way.
The writing is very descriptive, deep and emotive, and some characters added such a lightness and sense of positivity to what is otherwise a dark tale of witchcraft, war and revenge. I loved the character of Daedalus, a strong and intelligent man that visits Circe on her island and develops a relationship with her. It was sweet and calming amongst the chaos of the tale. My favourite quote from Circe is regarding this relationship, and it gives you a flavour as to the nature of the writing. Some may feel like it’s over flourished but I honestly felt like each sentence was polished.
‘But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brushed the earth. Such a constellation he was to me’.
I also really enjoyed the dynamics between Odysseus and Circe and Circe and Telegonus. They added different flavours to what could otherwise be a rather flat retelling of myths and fantasy. I found that Circe’s character was rather frustrating at first, she has lived so many years at the beginning of the tale but still feels like a teenager; it is only when she becomes a mother do I feel her character grew and matured.
Miller is really good at extracting emotion from you as a reader, for example you’d never really consider that it must be difficult for a god emotionally, but in greek mythology they do fall in love for mortals and try with such desperation to keep them alive in some cases, but the reality is that they die in what seems like no time at all to a god, and they have to live eternally with grief and grudges; there is no escape.
Although so far within my review I am giving this book much love and praise, there were many things which I did not enjoy. Firstly, every female character except for Circe and a character called Ariadne is HORRENDOUS. They are spoilt, narcissistic, self obsessed, bitchy and cruel. For a novel that has been previously marketed as ‘feminist’, I would strongly disagree with that claim. All the other women were jealous about lovers or pretty pearls, which tired quickly.
Also, from around pages p100-200 I can honestly say it was a bit of a struggle to read. When Circe begins living alone on her island, she became quite a background character. People such as Hermes visit her and tell her about what is happening in the world, whilst she just continues making draughts and hanging around with lions. I know from good reads that many other readers gave up around p180, but I can honestly say it does pick back up from around page 200 to the end.
The ending had me pretty gripped, the last sentence of the last chapter I was so excited and eager to know more, flipped over the page and found it had been the end! It’s a love hate moment when that happens!
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4/5
Such a clever book, written with emotion, wit and skill. As a reader it becomes apparent that the author is well versed in the subject and is so much more than a retelling, it’s a novel in its own right. It has actually made me learn so much about greek mythology with absolute ease and I’ve now begun to read another book on the subject which I’m also really enjoying, especially more so now I have the background knowledge from Circe. It really didn’t matter that I had no interest in greek mythology and it was so easy to read. The reasons for the star reduction is because of how Circe’s character changed suddenly, rather than over time which felt forced in a way, because of the majority of female characters’ written personalities and because of p100-200 being pretty imbalanced compared to the action and drama in the rest of the book.
If you fancy something a bit different and are open to books on fantasy I strongly suggest you pick this book up.
Trigger Warnings: Rape, Violence
Where to Buy:
Book Depository: £6.99
WASHED DOWN WITH
Back when it was sunny, I sat in the garden reading Circe alongside a Teapigs Chai tea. I really enjoy this chai as it’s a spicy yet sweet flavour and the packaging is super cute. You can grab yours from teapigs direct at www.teapigs.co.uk from £1.75.
So, I’m interested if any of you lovely readers will be picking this book up after reading this review? Let me know in the comments!
Until the next chapter,