Circe: Madeline Miller’s Feminist Retelling of Ancient Greek Literature


Madeline Miller

The cover of Circe next to a picture of Madeline Miller.

Ella Ireland, Editor

Circe, by Madeline Miller, grabbed my attention from the first page and hung on until the very end. 

The novel is a feminist retelling of Circe’s story. Circe is the immortal daughter of the Titan Helios and a nymph, a character in Homer’s The Odyssey known for turning men into pigs. In The Odyssey, she is a side character and a villain, but Miller’s novel makes her the main character and explains her actions. 

The story starts with how Circe and her siblings were born, explaining that at each of the babies’ birth Helios, their father, predicted their futures. While Circe’s siblings were prophesied to marry demigods or become kings, Circe’s prophecy was that she would marry a mortal prince.

Because of this prophecy, Circe’s strange looks, and her mortal voice, Circe is ignored and scorned by her family and spends most of her time alone. Soon into the book, she falls in love for the first time with a mortal man, and that is when the story truly begins. 

Circe uses magic so that she can stay with the mortal, and when her family and the Olympian gods find out, she is banished to the island of Aiaia.

Circe is about what happens to Circe while she is in exile, telling the stories of the men and monsters she encounters – including Scylla, the Minotaur, Daedalus, Medea, and Odysseus -, the reasons behind why she started turning men into pigs, and the ways that her already tenuous relationships with her family strained. Circe recounts her regrets and wishes as she goes through life as an immortal, constantly encountering mortals she will outlive.

Miller’s novel is written with beautiful prose, easily capturing Aiaia and the unique characters of the story and making them come alive.”

Miller’s novel is written with beautiful prose, easily capturing Aiaia and the unique characters of the story and making them come alive. It is a slow read, but that draws special focus to how Circe changes throughout her life, and it still kept my attention.

It’s always checked out at my local library and has won numerous awards in the past few years, including Indies Choice Best Adult Fiction of the Year and the 2018 Goodreads Choice for Fantasy Award. Circe was also named NPR, People, and Times best book of the year. 

Miller’s other book, The Song of Achilles, has also gained critical acclaim. 

I loved every page of Circe and would recommend it to anyone who likes Greek mythology, magic, and the origin stories of famous villains. 

Before you start reading it, though, I do want to give you a heads up that Circe does contain descriptions of blood and gore, childbirth, and, briefly, sexual assault, so please be careful in that regard. 

The book: Miller, Madeline. “Circe.” New York, NY. Little, Brown and Company. 2018. 

Circe is coming to HBO Max! 

More about Madeline Miller: 

To purchase a copy of Circe from a local bookstore: 

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