Bewitched by the Golden Daughter of the Sun
Circe is rejected by the other gods. She lacks great power and great beauty. Isolated and alone, she turns to mortals for companionship. She finds that she does indeed possess a power: the power of witchcraft. When she uses her powers against another nymph Zeus banishes her to live the rest of eternity in exile.
Abandoned on a deserted island, she spends her time taming beasts, honing her witchcraft, and exploring nature. As she works to find her place in the world, her path crosses with some of the most memorable characters in Greek mythology: Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the Minotaur, Medea, Athena, Hermes, and even Odysseus.
“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.”
Circe while primarily focusing on the title character, is really about those moments when her path crosses with those other names we know so well and how those moments defined who she was. This story covers centuries of mythology without ever feeling slow or long. Compared to which could feel long and drawn out at times, this story kept me coming back for more and refusing to put it down at times. I suspect that which book you like better will depend entirely on your own perspective, but for me, this one came out ahead.
Circe is an interesting character. For a goddess, she is incredibly humanized. It's easy to relate to feeling outcast and unworthy. She seeks her vengeance and pays the price.
“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment's carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”
She struggles to find her place in the world: with the gods, isolated on her island, or in the company of mortals. Her own self-awareness encourages the reader to continue to root for her even when she seems questionable - this differentiated Circe from The Song of Achilles and connected me more with the story.
The compelling theme of the story comes about parenting and lineage. Circe struggles to recognize herself as the daughter of the Sun. The theme plays out in multiple relationships throughout the story: Pasiphaë's pride of the Minotaur especially compared to her dozen other children, and Daedalus' love of Icarus. But truly it is Circe's failure to meet her parents' expectations she feels lost that is the catalyst for everything and her final choice to abandon their yoke where she finally finds freedom.
"Perhaps no parent can truly see their child. When we look we see only the mirror of our own faults."
Overall, I really liked this one. I enjoyed seeing so many stories I had known so well weaved in a new pattern like one of Penelope's tapestries. The universal themes of finding yourself separate from your parents and crafting your own life resonated with me. Miller crafted an engaging story through centuries of time, and she is quickly becoming one of my must-read authors. Both Circe and Song of Achilles are on my recommended reading list if you haven't checked them out.