It feels fitting that my last book review of the year is of my favourite book of the year. I had been planning on saving this after being completely floored by The Song of Achilles a few months back- but I couldn’t resist. And now I have god-knows how long to wait until the next book.
You don’t have to have read Miller’s previous book (or have a working knowledge of Greek mythology) to enjoy this, a modern and feminist re-telling of the story of the witch so reviled as the transformer of men into pigs. In this narrative, Circe- seemingly unremarkable daughter of a god and a nymph, teased for not being very much at all- has been banished to her island for an act of jealousy; but rather than being a passive victim of the gods, she discovers her powers as a sorcerer and uses them to defend herself against both marauding sailors and mighty Athena.
As her reputation grows, her fate intertwines with those we know from mythology: the Minotaur, Daedalus, Penelope- although her life is utterly changed when she meets Odysseus. Her story, so long told through a patriarchal lens, becomes something else entirely- a tale of bravery and independence.
Like in The Song of Achilles, the writing is achingly beautiful and it is one of those books that I was torn between wanting to read quickly so I could find out what would happen next and slowing down so that I didn’t finish so soon. If you have yet to read either of Madeline Miller’s books, make it a resolution for 2019- and prepare for me to be wildly jealous that you get to read them for the first time.