Martin's Must Reads: 'Circe'

Jul 9, 2019

When I was in secondary school, literature classes often started with the study of mythology. I read The Odyssey several times over those years. So it was interesting to read a novel that revolved around those gods and mortals.

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and the novel I’m referring to is Circe by Madeline Miller. When Circe is born to Helios the Titan god of the sun and Perse, a nymph daughter of Oceanos, Circe is labeled a nymph, but in her adult life she is a witch exiled by her father to a remote island.

The author describes Circe as a young girl ridiculed by both her parents and her siblings.  She falls in love with a mortal who spurns her for another nymph and in her pain, Circe turns the nymph into Scylla, a six-headed, flesh-eating monster. It is for this that her father banishes her to a remote island to live out her  days.

She passes her days honing her magic skills, taming wild beasts and growing food. Ships of tired and hungry sailors land on her shores and when they try to take advantage of her, she uses her magic to turn them into pigs. It is on one of these ships that Odysseus arrives at Circe’s island.  She turns his men into pigs until she takes him as her lover. She provides food, shelter and safe passage for him and his men. The rest of the novel follows Circe’s years raising her son, keeping him safe from an avenging god and finding her way to a happier life. 

If you love a well-told story with magic, beasts, mortals, gods and love, then you must read Circe by Madeline Miller.