Monday, April 8, 2024

Review of Circe by Madeline Miller

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (11/02/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) What Is The Power Of Belief Systems?

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“I remembered how my father had once told me that on earth there were men called astronomers whose task it was to keep track of his rising and setting.  They were held in highest esteem among mortals, kept in palaces as counselors of kings, but sometimes my father lingered over one thing or another and threw their calculations into despair.  Then those astronomers were hauled before the kings they served and killed as frauds.  My father had smiled when he told me.  It was what they deserved, he said.  Helios the Sun was bound to no will but his own, and none might say what he would do.” – Madeline Miller, Chapter One, Page 15

“Let me say what sorcery is not: it is not divine power, which comes with a thought and a blink.  It must be made and worked, planned and searched out, dug up, dried, chopped and ground, cooked, spoken over, and sung.  Even after that, it can fail, as gods do not.  If my herbs are not fresh enough, if my attention falters, if my will is weak, the draughts go stale and rancid in my hands.” – Madeline Miller, Chapter Seven, Page 75

“Among the gods there are a few who have the gift of prophecy, the ability to peer into the murk and glimpse what fates will come.  Not everything may be foreseen.  Most gods and mortals have lives that are tied to nothing; they tangle and wend now here, now there, according to no set plan.  But then there are those who wear their destinies like nooses, whose lives run straight as planks, however they try to twist.  It is these that our prophets may see.” – Madeline Miller, Chapter Ten, Page 116


Is This An Overview?

The immortals do not fear death, but they do fear power.  Among the immortals is a hierarchy defined by power, with Circe wielding none.  Sibling or not, many gods find ways to demean Circe.  Unlike most gods, Circe is interested in connecting to humans.  For such a connection, Circe discovered the power of witchcraft.  Power that Circe turned against a sibling as a method of retaliation.  Although other gods misused their power, Circe is used as a bargaining tool for those with more power and sent to exile. 

An exile that enables Circe to refine the powers of witchcraft.  The exile has its moments of loneliness, but also company.  Circe might not be able to leave the island, but many come to Circe.  From bandits, to heroes, to gods.  Experiences that Circe learns from.  Learns to become someone with power.  Learns that those who need help, might not be noble after help is received.  Learns how to challenge the more powerful gods.  Experiences that Circe will need to protect Circe’s child from a powerful god who wants to kill the child. 



This is a retelling of popular Greco-Roman myths.  Those who know the myths can have different reactions to this story.  Knowledge of the myths would enable a reader to better understand the politics and social structure of the gods.  But there can also be dissidence between what the reader expects of the myths, and the represented contrast.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What are nymphs?
•What was Helios’s presumed natural order? 
•How did Helios treat astronomers?
•What do gods love? 
•What did the gods think of mortals? 
•What did Circe think of humans? 
•Who is Circe? 
•What did Circe’s relatives think of Circe? 
•How can Circe’s childhood be described? 
•Why did Circe take Aeëtes?
•What did Prometheus do and what was the outcome?
•What did Circe think of Prometheus?  
•How does Titans and Olympians treat each other? 
•What is a Fury? 
•Can gods be hurt? 
•Who is Daedalus? 
•What is the great chain of fear?
•How did Glaucos react to Circe?
•What became of Glaucos? 
•What happened to Glaucos when Glaucos gained power?
•Who is Tethys and what did Circe ask of Tethys?
•How did Circe discover witchcraft? 
•How did Circe use power initially?  How did Circe’s use of power change? 
•Why is Scylla?  What does Scylla become? 
•How is witchcraft revealed to the gods? 
•Who are the original witches and magicians? 
•How does sorcery/witchcraft work? 
•What is Circe’s specialty in witchcraft? 
•What is Circe’s punishment for witchcraft? 
•How did Circe react to being on the island of Aiaia? 
•Who does Circe summon?
•Who is Hermes?
•How did Cicre and Hermes treat each other? 
•Who can enter and leave the island of Aiaia? 
•Who provides better offerings to the gods? 
•What is moly? 
•What happened to Pasiphaë? 
•How did the minotaur came to be? 
•What does Pasiphaë have on Daedalus?
•What did Daedalus give to Circe? 
•How do gods prove their worth? 
•How do mortals gain fame? 
•What are children worth? 
•What happened to Ariadne? 
•Who is Medea and what happened to Medea?
•What did Jason do? 
•How does Circe feel being on the island of Aiaia?  How does Circe deal with the loneliness and company? 
•Why do gods send their daughters to Aiaia?
•How did Odysseus and Circe treat each other?
•How did Athena treat Odysseus? 
•What happened during the Trojan War?
•How did Apollo share the prophecy? 
•Who did not want Circe child born? 
•How did Circe deal with Athena when Telegonus was born? 
•What stories did Circe tell Telegonus of Odysseus? 
•What does Telegonus want to do?
•How does Circe find a way to protect Telegonus and from what?
•Who is the Great lord of the deep? 
•What is Trygon’s power?
•What happened when Odysseus returned to Ithica?
•Why does Telemachus and Penelope go to Aiaia?
•What is the option Athena gives to Telemachus?  What is the outcome of the offer? 
•How does Circe end the exile? 
•What was the outcome of the confrontation between Circe and Scylla after exile’s end?
•What choice does Circe make after exile? 

Book Details
Edition:                   First ebook edition
Publisher:               Little, Brown and Company [Hachette Book Group]
Edition ISBN:         9780316556330
Pages to read:          335
Publication:             2020
1st Edition:              2018
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5