Supported by

December’s Book Club Pick: Turning Circe Into a Good Witch

  • Share full article

book review of circe

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Books-A-Million

When you purchase an independently reviewed book through our site, we earn an affiliate commission.

By Claire Messud

  • May 28, 2018

CIRCE By Madeline Miller 400 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $27.

I recall with intense pleasure my discovery in childhood of the Greek myths and Homer’s “Iliad,” in various editions, from an early acquaintance with d’Aulaire’s to Roger Lancelyn Green’s versions and, at the French school I attended for several years, a collection memorably entitled “Mythes et Légendes du Monde Grecque et Barbare.” Homer proper came later, in high school, affording both similar and distinct pleasures. In all versions, the concision and openness of the accounts were essential: Somehow authoritative rather than vague, they allowed an exhilarating freedom of imagination.

As familiar as those from the Bible, these stories saturate our literary history, in renditions and translations, allusions and transformations. Mary Renault stands as the 20th-century exemplar of the fully imagined retelling, most famously with “The King Must Die,” in which she granted Theseus his voice and conjured for readers the minute and vivid details of his upbringing and heroic deeds. More recently, Madeline Miller, a classicist and teacher, published “The Song of Achilles”: Widely acclaimed and translated, it received the Orange Prize for fiction in 2012. In that novel, Miller took on the story of Achilles from the perspective of Patroclus, his intimate and, in Miller’s version, his lover. Her fresh and contemporary understanding of this ancient story from the “Iliad” thrilled many and unnerved others. In this newspaper, Daniel Mendelsohn described the book as having “the head of a young adult novel, the body of the ‘Iliad’ and the hindquarters of Barbara Cartland” — ironically a fitting contemporary monster for the task of bringing the “Iliad” to a new readership.

Like its predecessor, Miller’s new book, “Circe,” illuminates known stories from a new perspective. Those familiar with the “Odyssey” will of course recall the wanderer’s visit to her island Aiaia — she’s perhaps best known as the witch who turns the sailors into pigs, and yet who ultimately invites Odysseus to be her lover and to abide with her, along with his men, for a year. Others will recall that Circe — Medea’s aunt, the sister of her father, Aeetes — cleansed Medea and Jason of their crimes, as they fled Colchis with the Golden Fleece and murdered Medea’s brother. She features, too, in the story of the Minotaur: Pasiphae, wife of King Minos and mother of Phaedra, Ariadne and the Minotaur (fathered, of course, by a sacred bull), is Circe’s sister. In all of these stories, Circe is at once important and liminal, just as she is a figure of uncertain powers, a minor immortal, the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and a Titan, and Perse, a lowly naiad.

Miller, writing once again in the first person (“The Song of Achilles” was narrated by Patroclus), gives voice to Circe as a multifaceted and evolving character. Her unhappy youth is explained, as the eldest and least cherished of Perse’s children by Helios, mocked for her unlovely voice (she will learn later, from Hermes, that “you sound like a mortal”). Secretly kind to Prometheus after he is condemned for giving fire to the humans, she is exiled to Aiaia not for this transgression but for her use of witchcraft to turn the mortal Glaucos, with whom she is in love, into a god; and, when Glaucos spurns her for the beautiful but feckless nymph Scylla, for transforming her into the sea monster who will plague sailors for generations.

According to Miller’s version, Circe is initially chiefly unhappy and immature, given to thoughtless lashing out that she lives to regret. When she cleanses Jason and Medea of their crimes, it is not because she is herself amoral but because she doesn’t know what those crimes are: When the pair ask her for “ katharsis,” “It was forbidden for me to question them.” Later, when she transforms sailors into pigs, her apparent malice is revealed in fact to be self-defense born of her isolation and mistreatment at the hands of sexual predators. When she deals with good men, like Daedalus, for whom she feels compassion (“he, too, knew what it was to make monsters”), she is filled with benevolent emotion; and even when her arguably evil brother Aeetes comes to Aiaia in search of Medea, she records feeling “a pleasure in me so old and sharp it felt like pain,” and recalls innocently that “as a child, he had liked to lean his head upon my shoulder and watch the sea gulls dip to catch their fish. His laugh had been bright as morning sun.”

Eventually, Circe will bear a child by Odysseus, a boy named Telegonus (although some versions of the myth have her bearing several boys); and Miller grants her, at this juncture, a profoundly human complex of emotions, from despair at the infant’s constant screaming to a profound and unconditional maternal ardor: “When he finally slept … a love so sharp it seemed my flesh lay open. I made a list of all the things I would do for him. Scald off my skin. Tear out my eyes. Walk my feet to bones, if only he would be happy and well.” Motherhood, then, is what renders Circe fully recognizable, postpartum depression and all.

As this passage makes clear, Miller has determined, in her characterization of this most powerful witch, to bring her as close as possible to the human — from the timbre of her voice to her intense maternal instincts. The brutal insouciance of her fellow immortals — whether her sharp-tongued mother, Perse; or chilly Hermes; or righteous Athena enraged — proves increasingly alien to this thoughtful and compassionate woman who learns to love unselfishly. It is an unexpected and jolly, if bittersweet, development, and one rather closer to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” than to traditional Greek myth.

“Circe” is very pleasurable to read, combining lively versions of familiar tales (like the birth of the Minotaur or the arrival of Odysseus and his men on Circe’s island) and snippets of other, related standards (a glance at Daedalus and Icarus; a nod to the ultimate fate of Medea after she and Jason leave Aiaia) with a highly psychologized, redemptive and ultimately exculpatory account of the protagonist herself. That said, Daniel Mendelsohn’s assessment of Miller’s earlier book pertains, perhaps even more so in this instance: It’s a hybrid entity, inserting strains of popular romance and specifically human emotion into the lives of the gods. Idiosyncrasies in the prose reflect this uneasy mixture: Circe sometimes speaks with syntactic inversions that recall Victorian translations from Greek (“frail she was, but crafty, with a mind like a spike-toothed eel”; “a year of peaceful days he had stayed with me”; “young he was, but not a fool”), and at other moments, in a surprising contemporary vernacular (“Meanwhile every petty and useless god would go on sucking down the bright air until the stars went dark”) occasionally punctuated by overly familiar phrases (that laugh, above, “bright as morning sun”; or this odd deployment of cliché: “My blood ran cold to see his greenness”).

In spite of these occasional infelicities and awkwardnesses, “Circe” will surely delight readers new to the witch’s stories as it will many who remember her role in the Greek myths of their childhood: Like a good children’s book, it engrosses and races along at a clip, eliciting excitement and emotion along the way. The novel’s feminist slant also appeals, offering — like revisions of Medea including Rachel Cusk’s 2015 adaptation of the play or David Vann’s 2017 novel “Bright Air Black” — a reclamation of one of myth’s reviled women. Purists may be less enchanted, bemused by Miller’s sentimental leanings and her determination to make Circe into an ultimately likable, or at least forgivable, character. This narrative choice seems a taming, and hence a diminishment, of the character’s transgressive divine excess.

Claire Messud is the author, most recently, of “The Burning Girl.”

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

As book bans have surged in Florida, the novelist Lauren Groff has opened a bookstore called The Lynx, a hub for author readings, book club gatherings and workshops , where banned titles are prominently displayed.

Eighteen books were recognized as winners or finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, in the categories of history, memoir, poetry, general nonfiction, fiction and biography, which had two winners. Here’s a full list of the winners .

Montreal is a city as appealing for its beauty as for its shadows. Here, t he novelist Mona Awad recommends books  that are “both dreamy and uncompromising.”

The complicated, generous life  of Paul Auster, who died on April 30 , yielded a body of work of staggering scope and variety .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

clock This article was published more than  6 years ago

The original nasty woman is a goddess for our times

book review of circe

The archaeological evidence is sketchy, but the first pussy hat was probably knitted by Circe. Among nasty women, the witch of Aeaea has held a place of prominence since Homer first sang of her wiles. For most of us, that was a long time ago — 700 B.C. or freshman English — but popular interest in “The Odyssey” picked up last fall when Emily Wilson published the first English translation by a woman. Wilson, a classicist at the University of Pennsylvania, described Circe as “the goddess who speaks in human tongues” and reminded us that what makes this enchantress particularly dangerous is that she is as beautiful as she is powerful.

That combination of qualities has excited male desire and dread at least since Athena sprang from the head of Zeus. On papyrus or Twitter , from Olympus to Hollywood , we have a roster of handy slurs and strategies to keep women caught between Scylla and Charybdis: either frigid or slutty, unnaturally masculine or preternaturally sexless, Lady Macbeth or Mother Mary.

Now, into that ancient battle — reinvigorated in our own era by the #MeToo movement — comes an absorbing new novel by Madeline Miller called “ Circe .” In his 1726 translation of “The Odyssey,” Alexander Pope claimed that Circe possessed an “adamantine heart,” but Miller finds the goddess’s affections wounded, complicated and capable of extraordinary sympathy. And to anyone who thinks that women can be shamed into silence, this witch has just one thing to say: “That’ll do, pig.”

Miller is something of a literary sorceress herself. As a 39-year-old Latin teacher, she created an international sensation in 2011 with her debut novel, a stirring reimagining of “The Iliad” called “The Song of Achilles.” It’s a pleasure to see that same transformative power directed at Circe, the woman who waylaid Odysseus and his men as they sailed home to Ithaca.

The first English translation of ‘The Odyssey’ by a woman was worth the wait

“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist,” Circe begins at the start of a story that will carry us across millennia. Although she writes in prose, Miller hews to the poetic timber of the epic, with a rich, imaginative style commensurate to the realm of immortal beings sparked with mortal sass. Circe’s father, Helios, lives in a palace of “polished obsidian . . . the stone floors smoothed by centuries of divine feet.” She describes a royal court just beyond the edge of physical possibility: “The whole world was made of gold. The light came from everywhere at once, his yellow skin, his lambent eyes, the bronze flashing of his hair. His flesh was hot as a brazier, and I pressed as close as he would let me, like a lizard to noonday rocks.”

In this fully re-created childhood, Miller finds the roots of Circe’s later personality and isolation. Mocked by her far more majestic family, Circe is a kind of Titanic Jane Eyre, sensitive and miserable, but nursing an iron will. (She also develops an acerbic sense of humor: Her father, she tells us, is “a harp with only one string, and the note it played was himself.”) Although her relatives disparage her, Circe cultivates the occult arts that will one day shock them. “I had begun to know what fear was,” she tells us. “What could make a god afraid? I knew that answer too. A power greater than their own.”

‘The Song of Achilles,’ by Madeline Miller

While working within the constraints of the “The Odyssey” and other ancient myths, Miller finds plenty of room to weave her own surprising story of a passionate young woman banished to lavish solitude. “To be utterly alone,” Circe scoffs. “What worse punishment could there be, my family thought, than to be deprived of their divine presence?” But her bravado is short-lived. “The still air crawled across my skin and shadows reached out their hands. I stared into the darkness, straining to hear past the beat of my own blood.” In that extremity, Circe discovers the labor and, eventually, the power of witchcraft.

A protagonist, even a fascinating one, stuck alone in the middle of nowhere poses special narrative challenges, but Miller keeps her novel filled with perils and romance. She’s just as successful recounting far-off adventures — such as the horror of the Minotaur — as she is reenacting adventures on the island. In the novel’s most unnerving encounter, young Medea stops by mid-honeymoon fresh from chopping up her brother. Chastened by bitter experience, Circe offers her niece wise counsel, but you know how well that turns out.

Which is one of the most amazing qualities of this novel: We know how everything here turns out — we’ve known it for thousands of years — and yet in Miller’s lush reimagining, the story feels harrowing and unexpected. The feminist light she shines on these events never distorts their original shape; it only illuminates details we hadn’t noticed before.

That theme develops long before Odysseus and his men arrive, as the novel explores the prevalence and presumption of rape. Again and again, sailors land upon Circe’s shore and violate her hospitality so grotesquely that she’s forced to develop her infamous potions and spells. “The truth is,” she says ruefully, “men make terrible pigs.” Considering the treatment she has received, we can’t blame her for concluding, “There were no pious men anymore, there had not been for a long time.”

Of course, her grim appraisal is a perfect introduction for Odysseus. He doesn’t arrive on Aeaea until more than halfway through the novel, but then Miller plays their verbal sparring with a delightful mix of wit and lust. The affection that eventually develops between them is intriguingly complex and mature — such a smart revision of the misogynist fantasy passed down from antiquity:

“Later, years later, I would hear a song made of our meeting,” Circe tells us. “I was not surprised by the portrait of myself: the proud witch undone before the hero’s sword, kneeling and begging for mercy. Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”

There will be plenty of weeping later in this novel, although it’s likely to be your own. In the story that dawns from Miller’s rosy fingers, the fate that awaits Circe is at once divine and mortal, impossibly strange and yet entirely human.

Ron Charles is the editor of Book World and host of .

On April 18 at 7 p.m., Madeline Miller will be at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. .

Read more :

Why the literature of antiquity still matters, by Michael Dirda

By Madeline Miller

Little, Brown. 393 pp. $27

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

book review of circe

Profile Picture



Awards & Accolades

Readers Vote

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

Kirkus Reviews' Best Books Of 2018

New York Times Bestseller

Next book

by Madeline Miller ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018


Share your opinion of this book

More About This Book

Madeline Miller


'Circe' Author Madeline Miller Battles Long Covid




by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2015

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring  passeurs : people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the  Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014


More by Kristin Hannah



by Kristin Hannah



‘The Nightingale’ Is Reese’s Book Club Pick

IndieBound Bestseller


by Heather Morris ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 4, 2018

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowi erer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas . She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018


More by Heather Morris


by Heather Morris


  • Discover Books Fiction Thriller & Suspense Mystery & Detective Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Nonfiction Biography & Memoir Teens & Young Adult Children's
  • News & Features Bestsellers Book Lists Profiles Perspectives Awards Seen & Heard Book to Screen Kirkus TV videos In the News
  • Kirkus Prize Winners & Finalists About the Kirkus Prize Kirkus Prize Judges
  • Magazine Current Issue All Issues Manage My Subscription Subscribe
  • Writers’ Center Hire a Professional Book Editor Get Your Book Reviewed Advertise Your Book Launch a Pro Connect Author Page Learn About The Book Industry
  • More Kirkus Diversity Collections Kirkus Pro Connect My Account/Login
  • About Kirkus History Our Team Contest FAQ Press Center Info For Publishers
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Reprints, Permission & Excerpting Policy

© Copyright 2024 Kirkus Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Go To Top

Popular in this Genre

Close Quickview

Hey there, book lover.

We’re glad you found a book that interests you!

Please select an existing bookshelf

Create a new bookshelf.

We can’t wait for you to join Kirkus!

Please sign up to continue.

It’s free and takes less than 10 seconds!

Already have an account? Log in.

Sign in with Google

Trouble signing in? Retrieve credentials.

Almost there!

  • Industry Professional

Welcome Back!

Sign in using your Kirkus account

Contact us: 1-800-316-9361 or email [email protected].

Don’t fret. We’ll find you.

Magazine Subscribers ( How to Find Your Reader Number )

If You’ve Purchased Author Services

Don’t have an account yet? Sign Up.

book review of circe

  • Skip to main content
  • Keyboard shortcuts for audio player

Book Reviews

'circe' gives the witch of the odyssey a new life.

Annalisa Quinn


Buy Featured Book

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

  • Independent Bookstores

"Later, years later, I would hear a song made of our meeting," says the hero of Madeleine Miller's Circe , of her romance with the mortal Odysseus. Circe is referring to Homer's version of the story, in which Odysseus arrives on her island sea-battered and mourning for his men killed by the cruel Laestrygonians. Circe entraps his remaining men and turns them into pigs. But Odysseus, with the help of the god Hermes, tricks Circe and makes her beg for mercy before becoming her lover.

"I was not surprised by the portrait of myself," Circe says, "the proud witch undone before the hero's sword, kneeling and begging for mercy. Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime for poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep."

Miller's lush, gold-lit novel — told from the perspective of the witch whose name in Greek has echoes of a hawk and a weaver's shuttle -- paints another picture: of a fierce goddess who, yes, turns men into pigs, but only because they deserve it.

Though most of Circe's fame derives from her short encounter with Odysseus in Book 10 of the Odyssey, Miller's novel covers a longer and more complex life: her lonely childhood among the gods, her first encounter with mortals, who "looked weak as mushroom gills" next to the "vivid and glowing" divinities, the awakening of her powers, and finally, the men who wash up on her shores, souring her trust with their cruelty.

'Women & Power' Links Today's Trolls With Ancient Ancestors

'Women & Power' Links Today's Trolls With Ancient Ancestors

In 'ODY-C,' A Greek Hero Worthy Of Women

In 'ODY-C,' A Greek Hero Worthy Of Women

Circe is a nymph, daughter of the sun god Helios, banished to the island of Aiaia for using magic to turn a romantic rival into the monster Scylla. Alone, she begins to hone her craft. "For a hundred generations, I have walked the world, drowsy and dull, idle and at my ease," she thinks. "Then I learned I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow. I would have done that toil a thousand times to keep such power in my hands. I thought: this is how Zeus felt when he first lifted the thunderbolt."

A classics teacher, Miller is clearly on intimate terms with the Greek poem. The character of Circe only occupies a few dozen lines of it, but Miller extracts worlds of meaning from Homer's short phrases. For instance, Homer cryptically describes Circe as having a "human voice," leading centuries of readers to wonder: What is a divine voice? Do the gods have a language? Miller makes Circe's human voice the beginning of a (fraught, because inherently temporary) kinship with mortals that is one of the novel's loveliest strains.

But my favorite of Miller's small recalibrations is less lofty: It has to do with Circe's hairdo. In Homer, Circe is identified with her "lovely braids." The usual scholarly gloss on this is that the braids signal not only beauty, but also exoticism, because Eastern goddesses wore their hair in braids. But in Circe , the braids come about in the first moments of the goddess's magical awakening, when she begins roaming the island to find ingredients for her spells: "I learned to braid my hair back, so it would not catch on every twig, and how to tie my skirts at the knee to keep the burrs off." It's a small detail, but it's the difference between a person of independence and skill, and some male dream of danger, foreignness, and sex, lounging with parted lips while she watches the horizon for ships.

"We are not afraid of telling over and over again how a man comes to fall in love with a woman and be wedded to her, or else be fatally parted from her," wrote George Eliot in Middlemarch . Why, she asks, do we never hear of another kind of love, which also "must be wooed with industrious thought and patient renunciation of small desires" — a vocation? Circe insists that labor, as much as love, makes a life: "No wonder I have been so slow," she thinks when she discovers magic. "All this while, I have been a weaver without wool, a ship without the sea." This Circe braids her hair because she has work to do.

The Bibliofile

Advertise   Contact   Privacy

Browse All Reviews

New Releases

List Reviews by Rating

List Reviews by Author

List Reviews by Title

circe madeline miller book review book summary synopsis spoilers plot details

By Madeline Miller

Book review, full book summary and synopsis for Circe by Madeline Miller, an elegant and delightful retelling of Greek mythological tales.

Circe is the daughter of Helios, God of the Sun, and Perse, an Oceanid nymph. Despite her divinity, she is less beautiful and lacks the skills of her siblings, so she is largely shunned and ridiculed among the godly.

When she falls in love with a mortal who, of course, is fated to age and die, she is desperate enough to experiment with a different and illicit type of power -- potions and witchcraft, and with it she discovers her own ability to bend the world to her will.

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Circe is born a God, the daughter of a Titan and a water nymph. However, she lacks the powers of her siblings and is less beautiful. They treat her unkindly, except for Aeëtes , but he is granted a kingdom and leaves.

Circe falls in love with Glaucos , a mortal fisherman. In hopes of making Glaucos immortal, Circe learns about illicit Pharmaka , herbs endowed with power that only grow where Gods have fallen. She transforms Glaucos into a Sea-God, but he soon becomes enamored with the beautiful but malicious Scylla . Circe turns Scylla into a sea monster.

Circe is exiled to the empty island of Aiaia for her use of witchcraft, and there she hones her knowledge of herbs and magic. One day, Daedalus , a famed mortal craftsman, arrives at Aiaia, requesting help for Pasiphaë , Circe's sister. In Knossos, Pasiphaë gives birth to a Minotaur. Circe uses magic to manage its hunger, and Daedalus builds it a labyrinthine cage. Daedalus is forced to help because they have his son, Icarus. Daedalus later tries to build wings to help his son escape Knossos, but Icarus flies too close to the sun and dies. Daedalus later dies from old age.

Next, Medea (Aeëtes's daughter) and Jason , arrive at Aiaia, asking to be cleansed. Medea has murdered her own brother and used magic to help Jason acquire a golden fleece. Circe warns Medea that Jason's feeling for Medea will wane now that she is no longer useful to him, and Medea angrily departs.

Later, Alke , the daughter of a lesser river lord, is sent to serve Circe, now known as the Witch of Aiaia, as a punishment. Soon, others adopt the idea and send their troublesome daughters there, too. One day, sailors show up. Circe offers them food, but the captain attacks her so turns them into pigs. Other sailors go to Aiaia when they hear of the island of Nymphs. At first Circe attempts to suss out if they are honest men, but Circe eventually assumes they are all dishonest and turns them all into pigs.

One day, Odysseus and his men arrive. He has an herb that prevents Circe from harming him. She finds him charming, sleeps with him and promises not to harm him. For a year, he stays as he mends his ship. Circe knows he is married, but she yearns for him to stay. Before he leaves, Circe sends him to a prophet and warns about the obstacles in his trip home (Scylla, etc.).

But Circe is pregnant and her mortal son, Telegonus , is soon born. Athena wants the child dead and offers her eternal blessings in exchange, but Circe refuses. Instead, Circe uses powerful magic to protect the island. Telegonus grows up, but longs to visit his father. Circe finally relents and helps him gather protections for the journey. She agrees to suffer eternal pain to acquire a deadly weapon, the tail of Trygon , a sea god. But Trygon ultimately doesn't extract the price and simply tells her to return it when she's done.

Telegonus leaves for Ithaca, but returns quickly because Odysseus is dead. Odysseus misunderstood his intentions and fought him instead, scratching himself on the Trygon's tail. Circe realizes that Athena wanted Telegonus dead to prevent this. Telegonus has also brought Telemachus (Odysseus’s other son) and Penelope (Odysseus’s wife) to the island. Penelope is worried Athena will claim Telemachus in Odysseus's absence and hopes for Circe's protection. Circe uses her magic to protect them, but Athena makes her demands. She wants Telemachus to leave and start an empire, but he has no desire for glory and power. However, Telegonus longs for adventure, and he accepts instead.

With Telegonus gone, Circe calls for her father, demanding that he talk to Zeus and release her from exile. She threatens to tell Zeus the Titans' secrets and start a war. Free to leave, Circe and Telemachus go to turn Scylla into stone, and Circe confides in Telemachus all her secrets. (Telemachus fills her in on what ended up happening with Medea — Jason married another. Medea kills the new wife and murders her children. A golden chariot whisks her home.) Penelope becomes an expert on herbs and becomes the Witch of Aiaia instead.

The book ends with Circe making a potion to bring forth her true self. She then has a vision of herself as a mortal, growing old with Telemachus. She drinks the potion.

For more detail, see the full Section-by-Section Summary .

If this summary was useful to you, please consider supporting this site by leaving a tip ( $2 , $3 , or $5 ) or joining the Patreon !

Book Review

Circe , by Madeline Miller, came out early last year, and I’ve been keen to find time for it, so it seemed like a good book to kick off the spring season.

It’s a re-telling the story of Circe, a character originated circa 8th century B.C. by Homer. In Homer’s in The Odyssey , Odysseus encounters her on the island of Aeaea where she is villainously doling out dangerous potions and turning men into pigs.

While in her original incarnation she’s mostly an obstacle to be overcome, in Miller’s reinvented tale, she’s given a new life, as well as a meaningful and imaginative story deeply rooted in a myriad of mythological tales.

book review of circe

The Palace at Knossos in Crete

A while back, I took a trip to Greece and visited one of the locations that appears briefly in the book, the remains of Minos’s Palace at Knossos in Crete. It was about a hour out from where we were staying, so we had to rent a car, and it was a whole mess, but I desperately wanted to see it.

I’ve come across other references to this site then, but Circe was the first book that ever made me reminisce about it. Reading Circe, I could imagine that crumbling Minoan archaeological site, thousands upon thousands of years old, as a living, breathing palace, gleaming with splendor and marveling that I’d once walked those walkways as well.

Miller’s mythological retelling is so dazzlingly alive . She uses Circe’s story to bring in a whole host of other mythologies, ranging from the Titanomachy (“battle of the Titans”) to the Gift of Fire, various other parts of the Odyssey and so on. The events of these stories all overlap, one washing over the next, intertwining in a delightful and inventive manner. Under Miller’s imaginative gaze, these classic stories are endowed with a newfound energy. Fleshed-out and lively, it’s a pleasure to read, especially if you’re someone who loves mythological tales.

The most difficult part of reading Circe for me was that it took forever because whenever a mention of any character came up, I was always tempted to look them up on Wikipedia to see what parts of their story originate from where. This inevitably led me down deep, and I mean deep , rabbit holes of endless Wikipedia entries and other sources filled with mythological esoterica. (But honestly, I’d consider that a feature, not a bug, when it comes to reading).

book review of circe

Ulysses at the Palace of Circe by Wilhelm Schubert van Ehrenberg (1667)

Themes and Character Development

By the second half of the book, Circe has been alive for over a thousand years. She becomes more reflective about her experiences during various interludes, and certainly when Circe’s story takes a darker turn. At those junctions, Miller is thoughtful and introspective. In the book’s more somber moments, Miller explores Circe’s loneliness, alienation, and how her perceptions may have been warped by her experiences or misunderstandings.

Through the relationship of the gods, Titans, Olympians, lesser gods, mortals and so forth, the book contemplates the meaning of having power, how power is derived and how power effects how people relate to each other. Furthermore, using a range of classic Greek Myths to tell a story provides the perfect foundation and a wide berth to delve into fundamental questions about morals and goodness and pragmatism and ambition and balancing it all with the need to survive and protect yourself.

I loved what a complete character Circe is. She is complex, imperfect and is consistently drawn in a way that grounds her in reality, despite her divine origins.

Read it or Skip it?

I loved this book. I loved this book so much, it actually surprises me how strongly I feel about it. If you like mythology, Circe is a must read, no caveats. It is such a vivid and wonderful story that brings together so many bits and pieces of Greek mythology and somehow turns them into a cohesive book that is well worth your time. It is all at once thoughtful and entertaining and elegantly written. I was delighted by it.

If you aren’t as into mythology, I still think the story is very worthwhile, though you may have to exercise a bit more patience as you get grounded in all the characters and their stories. I’d really encourage you to give it a shot though if you’re looking for an entertaining, yet meaningful and complex story.

Circe won me over about 20 pages in, and it only got better from there. It’s honestly been quite a few years since I’ve found a book I loved as much as this one, so my feeling can be summed up as follows: 1) I’m sad it’s over, 2) I can’t believe I waited so long to read this, and 3) I need to go buy a copy of Madeline Miller’s previous novel, The Song of Achilles .

Have you read this and what did you think? See Circe on Amazon .

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of Circe

Movie / TV Show Adaptation

See Everything We Know About the 'Circe' Adaptation

Share this post

Bookshelf -- A literary set collection game

She’s Not Sorry

The Seven Year Slip

Darling Girls

Yours Truly

The Coworker

Best Literary Fiction of 2024 (New & Anticipated)

The Housemaid Series Recap

2024’s Best Book Club Books (New & Anticipated)

Bookshelf: Development Diary

Best Rom-Com, Beach Reads & Contemporary Romance Books

book review of circe


Share your thoughts cancel reply.

Been meaning to read this. Do you think reading it in electronic format is OK? Some books lose something when read on a device.

Funny you should ask! I actually read half of it as an ebook and half of it on hard copy (I had a hard copy but forgot to bring it and didn’t want to stop reading. Of course, by the end I loved it so much I went out and bought a first edition signed copy, haha, so now I actually have two.)

Anyway, my point is, it’s definitely readible as an ebook, I did just fine with it. But if you’re like me, maybe you’ll just end up wanting it regardless. Mostly my advice is to read it ASAP because it’s really good. :)

Perfect. Thanks!

Thanks for reminding me about this! I’ve added both Miller books to my TBR. We’re great fans of Greek mythology around here: I was hooked during my childhood, when the marionette puppeteers who used to make the rounds of the schools put on a “Golden Fleece” show; and my kids grew up watching the 1950s “Jason and the Argonauts” movie, when it was finally released on video, just as I had been raised on it, back when it was released to broadcast TV (I still love those ancient special effects).

Oh, I’m excited on your behalf, I think you’re going to love it! I honestly don’t understand how anyone can NOT love mythology, it’s so fascinating and fun and dramatic. That’s so awesome they did a Golden Fleece show, it sounds like that would be so much fun! Thanks for your thoughts and happy happy reading! Hope you’re having a great weekend!

I hadn’t thought about the puppet shows for years, and had forgotten the name of the troupe, but it must have been the Cole Marionettes (see Mr. Cole’s obituary, which mentions the Jason and the Golden Fleece show: ). The puppet shows were an eagerly anticipated annual event at our elementary school, but the only one I remember is the Golden Fleece. Greek mythology rocks! :)

Oooh! I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about this book! It’s waiting on my shelf … I think it’ll make a good July read?

Yes, do it! I actually bought this book back in September or somewhere around there and I still can’t believe I let it sit there for so long, haha. Hope you love it!

I adored Circe, and The Song of Achilles!

I’m really excited for the Song of Achilles, though I’m a little scared my expectations are way too high now, haha. :)

This has been on my TBR list for awhile. I hope I can get to it soon. Thanks for your thoughts.

So many books, so little time, such a familiar feelings, haha. This one is really good though. Hope you love it if you get a chance to read it!

Yeah this book is amazing.

Right?! The best part about book blogging is getting to chat with others about how awesome a book is when you find one you love… thanks for dropping by!

So glad you read this book!!! Honestly one of our favorites!!! You have to read A Song of Achilles, because like Circe it draws you into Ancient Greece like nothing before! When you get the chance to read, come check our review and tell us your thoughts as well!!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll give your review a read later today, thanks for the heads up!

Glad to see you enjoyed this book so much! I listened to the audio last summer and found the story lively – it moves at such an absorbing pace, from start to finish.

Yeah, I was surprised how evenly paced it was considering how much of the book hinges on understanding her internal thought processes. I feel like it’s hard to write that stuff in a way that doesn’t make the book drag. I think it worked well in Circe because she does a fantastic job of “showing” you how her perspective on things is shaped, etc. instead of just doing a bunch of internal monologues. Thanks for dropping by!

I finished it today and absolutely love it. your review is beautiful

Thank you for the kind comment! Glad to connect with people who loved this book as well! :) Cheers!

This book was fantastic. Appreciate the review.

Thanks for dropping by and thanks for reading!

Thanks for your review, I’ve been meaning to read this book and whilst I’m not a huge fan of her previous book, I have to admit she has a beautiful writing and a melancholy that I like. Can’t wait to read this one.

Oh, I’m sad to hear you didn’t like A Song of Achilles. I’m really curious about it — I haven’t read it yet so unfortunately I have no insight to provide on a comparison between the two, but I hope you do like Circe, and thanks for reading the review!

Oh it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that the first half of the book was a nit difficult for me. I didn’t quite like how the story was told, but the second half was amazing. I cried by the time it ends. Anw, I love reading your reviews, it’s always well written.

This book does deserve a glowing review! Loved it too!

I honestly can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner! Thanks for dropping by!

I wrote about Circe in my dissertation so it seems incredible I still haven’t read it!! Fingers crossed I get round to it soon!!

I bet you’ll love it! Thanks for reading!

I absolutely rave about this book as well! I was lucky enough to hear Madeline Miller talk about it at an author event – especially hearing her read sections aloud, based on the Ancient Greek oral traditions of storytelling. Your review sums up everything I enjoyed about Circe, I particularly like what you said about the book exploring power and morals in general. It’s amazing how easy it is to relate to the characters, even though they are divine beings living thousands of years ago! 😊

Oh that’s awesome, I’m jealous I would’ve loved to hear that. I’m so glad other people loved this book too! :) Thanks for dropping by!

Nicely written review. I’ll think I’ll read the book.

Thank you! Hope you like it if you get a chance to read it!

I liked Circe :) just wished she had gone deeper into the stories of the other gods!

I’ve just finished this book and the tears are still drying on my cheeks. I was so moved by her relationships with mortals, while the gods were cold and almost lifeless – as the author intended. There are so many themes to explore here. I borrowed a friend’s copy but might have to buy my own so I can revisit this intriguing and complex take on Circe – and spend some more time exploring the many threads of mythology that weave their way through the tale as you clearly have done. Thanks for the great review.

I just finished the audio version of Madelne Miller’s “Circe” narrated by Perdita Weeks. It was an astoundng experience to hear Circe’s story in Circe’s voice.


Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe, a powerful enchantress from Greek mythology, practicing witchcraft in her sanctuary on the island of Aiaia

17 Dec Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe book cover

Buy Circe Now!

“Circe” spans several centuries, offering a deep dive into the life of its eponymous character. It begins with Circe’s childhood in the halls of Helios, her father, where she struggles to find her place among gods and nymphs. She discovers her penchant for witchcraft, a talent that leads to her exile on the island of Aiaia. This isolation becomes both a punishment and a sanctuary, allowing Circe to hone her magical skills and interact with various figures from Greek mythology, including Odysseus, the Minotaur, and Athena. The novel is not just a series of events but a profound exploration of Circe’s evolution from a naive nymph to a powerful sorceress, grappling with her immortality and her desire to understand the mortal world.

Main Characters

  • Circe : Initially a timid and overlooked nymph, Circe grows into a formidable witch. Her journey is marked by moments of vulnerability, strength, and deep introspection.
  • Odysseus : A clever and complex character, Odysseus’ interaction with Circe adds layers to both their stories.
  • Telemachus : Odysseus’ son, who visits Circe and develops a unique bond with her.
  • Athena : The goddess who often stands as Circe’s antagonist, representing the capricious and often cruel nature of the gods.

In-Depth Analysis

Miller’s writing is a standout feature, with its lyrical quality and deep emotional resonance. The novel excels in its portrayal of Circe as a multifaceted character, exploring themes of power, isolation, and identity. It also delves into the pettiness and politics of the gods, contrasting it with Circe’s growing affinity for humanity.

  • Character Development : Circe’s evolution is the heart of the story. Miller skillfully depicts her transformation, making her a relatable and compelling protagonist.
  • Lyrical Prose : The writing style is evocative and poetic, enhancing the mythological setting and the emotional depth of the narrative.
  • Pacing : Some readers might find the middle part of the book a bit slow, as it delves deeply into character exploration.

Literary Devices

  • Symbolism : Circe’s witchcraft symbolizes her independence and self-discovery.
  • Foreshadowing : The novel uses subtle hints to foretell key events, particularly in the interactions between gods and mortals.

Relation to Broader Issues

“Circe” speaks to the universal themes of identity, power dynamics, and the nature of humanity. It also touches on gender roles and the struggle for autonomy, particularly resonant in the #MeToo era.

“Circe” will appeal to fans of Greek mythology, character-driven narratives, and feminist literature. It stands out for its fresh take on a mythological figure often relegated to the margins of these stories. Readers who enjoyed “The Song of Achilles,” also by Miller, or “The Silence of the Girls” by Pat Barker, will likely find this novel captivating.

Potential Audiences

  • Fans of Greek mythology and retellings.
  • Readers interested in feminist narratives.
  • Those who appreciate character-driven stories and lyrical prose.

Thematic Analysis

The novel deeply explores themes like female empowerment, the nature of divinity versus humanity, and the search for identity. Circe’s journey is a powerful representation of breaking free from societal constraints and finding one’s voice.

Stylistic Elements

Miller’s prose is rich and poetic, bringing a modern sensibility to ancient myths. Her use of vivid imagery and careful pacing adds depth to the narrative and characters.

Comparison with Other Works

“Circe” can be compared to “The Song of Achilles” in its retelling of Greek myths with a humanistic perspective. It also shares thematic similarities with works like “The Penelopiad” by Margaret Atwood, offering a feminist perspective on classical stories.

Potential Test Questions with Answers

  • It represents her transformation from an ignored nymph to a powerful witch, allowing her to explore her abilities and independence.
  • She portrays him as complex and flawed, focusing on his cunning and moral ambiguities.

Awards and Recognitions

“Circe” was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019 and received critical acclaim for its innovative approach to myth retelling.

Bibliographic Information

  • Title : Circe
  • Author : Madeline Miller
  • Publication Date : 2018
  • Publisher : Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN : 978-0316556347

BISAC Categories:

  • Historical – Ancient
  • Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology
  • War & Military

Summaries of Awards and Other Reviews

  • Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Adult Literature (2019)
  • ALA Alex Award (2019) ,
  • Tähtifantasia Award Nominee (2022)
  • Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee (2019)
  • The Kitschies for Red Tentacle (Best Novel) (2019) ,
  • Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy (2018)
  • Book of the Month Book of the Year Award (2018) ,
  • RUSA CODES Reading List Nominee for Historical Fiction (2019)

#1  New York Times  Bestseller — named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, the  Washington Post ,  People ,  Time , Amazon,  Entertainment Weekly ,  Bustle, Newsweek, the A.V. Club, Christian Science Monitor, Refinery 29, Buzzfeed, Paste, Audible, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Thrillist, NYPL, Self, Real Simple, Goodreads, Boston Globe, Electric Literature, BookPage, the Guardian, Book Riot, Seattle Times, and Business Insider.

Purchasing Links

Is this book a series.

“Circe” is a standalone novel. However, Madeline Miller’s other work, “The Song of Achilles,” explores similar themes in a different mythological context.

About Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller is an American novelist and classics scholar. Her debut novel, “The Song of Achilles,” also received critical acclaim and awards. Miller is known for her ability to reimagine ancient myths with contemporary relevance and emotional depth.

Share this:



Circe by Madeline Miller review: a fresh take on ancient mythical tale

A complex, compelling portrait of one of the most intriguing women in western literature.

book review of circe

The daughter of a sea nymph and the Titan sun god Helios, Circe is doomed to immortality


Circe doesn't take up much space in Homer's Odyssey – the visit to her island takes up just 15 pages in Emily Wilson's 2017 translation – but the sorceress who turns men into pigs makes an indelible impact. Since her story was first told several thousand years ago, she's inspired countless artists and writers from Ovid to John William Waterhouse. In her new novel Circe , Madeline Miller, who won the Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles in 2012, offers a refreshingly complex and utterly compelling portrait of one of the most intriguing women in western literature.

Miller, who has an MA in classics from Brown University, draws on a wide range of ancient Greek and Latin sources to tell Circe’s story. Like its classical source material, the novel is episodic, but this structure perfectly conveys one of the novel’s central themes. Circe is immortal, which means that any relationships she may form with humans, from Daedalus to Odysseus, can only be temporary. They will always age and die, and she will have to move on without them, beautiful, powerful and alone.

The daughter of a sea nymph and the Titan sun god Helios, Circe begins her life in the halls of her father. When she was born, she tells us, “the name for what I was did not exist”. Is she a nymph? A goddess? The truth, as it turns out, is something entirely new. Despised by her divine family, Circe discovers her powers of sorcery when she turns a human fisherman into a god. When he spurns her for another nymph, Scylla, Circe transforms her rival into a horrific sea monster who becomes the sourge of all sailors – an act that will haunt Circe for the rest of her life. Circe is exiled to a lonely island, where she spends centuries honing her craft.

But she’s not totally isolated. She visits Crete, where her cruel sister Pasiphae gives birth to a monster that will become legend, and where Circe bonds with the inventor Daedalus. They work together to contain the Minotaur, combining Daedalus’s human skill and her sorcery. Miller’s depiction of what it feels like to work magic is extraordinarily vivid and convincing – after Daedalus gives Circe a beautiful loom, she is struck by the similarities between working with textiles and with spells: “the simplicity and skill at once…your hands must be busy, and your mind sharp and free”.

Unflinching horror

Circe must return to her island, where she is visited by her intense niece Medea and her husband Jason, an encounter which reminds her of her own loneliness. Not long afterwards we discover what turned her into the seemingly capricious sorceress of Book 10 of the Odyssey , who turns visiting sailors into swine. This is dark magic born of cruelty, described in scenes of unflinching horror, and for a while Circe's pain threatens to consume her. Then along comes wily Odysseus, and everything changes yet again. But where can your story end, when you're going to live forever?

This is, of course, a ripping yarn, and in other hands Circe could have been an ancient Greek equivalent of Marion Zimmer Bradley's sprawling 1983 bestseller The Mists of Avalon , which tells the story of Arthur through the eyes of Morgan le Fey. Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. But what elevates Circe is Miller's luminous prose, which is both enormously readable and evocative, and the way in which she depicts the gulf between gods and mortals.

The Titans and Olympians in the novel feel both disturbingly alien and utterly convincing. Miller writes of divinity as a quality that can be felt, expressed and, in the case of Circe, sometimes resented. Crucially, Circe never feels like a modern woman. She is the product of an ancient and immortal world, who begins by feeling repulsed by humans and gradually comes to realise that mortals can grow and change while her fellow immortals are doomed to find variety only in manipulation and destruction. Circe can be part of that cycle of cruel and pointless conflict, or she can choose to break it. In this unforgettable novel, Miller makes us care about that magical, mythical choice.


George stephanopoulos: ‘you can only have constructive debates if people are determined to engage in good faith’, colm tóibín: ‘writing a sequel to brooklyn the risk is cheapness’, adrian dunbar on beckett: ‘i seemed to be getting knocked around emotionally but didn’t know how he was doing it’, land is all that matters by myles dungan: class act, but class matters too, ours by phillip b williams: imparting of african folklore throughout novel feels restorative, big parties set to win seats in each of three european parliament constituencies, poll finds, irish workers among the least productive in europe, study indicates, cyclist (70s) dies following road crash involving car on dame street in dublin, every time i travel abroad i am gripped by the fear that ireland is making a fool of me, how ireland drinks now: teetotallers, wine-o’clockers and ex-drinkers, latest stories, man arrested after reports of individual brandishing suspected gun in belfast, max verstappen sees off mclaren challenge to match ayrton senna’s pole record, roberto de zerbi to leave brighton after sunday’s clash with manchester united, munich airport: several flights cancelled after climate protesters glue themselves to runway, slovakia’s pm robert fico ‘nearing a positive prognosis’ as suspected shooter appears in court.

Book Club

  • Terms & Conditions
  • Privacy Policy
  • Cookie Information
  • Cookie Settings
  • Community Standards
  • Member Login
  • Library Patron Login



Search: Title Author Article Search String:

Reviews of Circe by Madeline Miller

Summary | Excerpt | Reading Guide | Reviews | Beyond the book | Read-Alikes | Genres & Themes | Author Bio

by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

Critics' Opinion:

Readers' Opinion:

  • Historical Fiction
  • 17th Century or Earlier
  • Adult-YA Crossover Fiction
  • Strong Women
  • Magical or Supernatural
  • Top 20 Best Books of 2018

Rate this book

book review of circe

About this Book

  • Reading Guide

Book Summary

Winner of the 2018 BookBrowse Fiction Award The daring, dazzling and highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Song of Achilles .

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child - not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power - the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus. But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world. NPR's Weekend Edition "Books To Look Forward To In 2018" Esquire's "The 27 Most Anticipated Books of 2018" Boston Globe's "25 books we can't wait to read in 2018" The Millions "The Most Anticipated: The Great 2018 Book Preview" Cosmopolitan's "33 Books to Get Excited About in 2018"


WHEN I WAS BORN, the name for what I was did not exist. They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and thousand cousins. Least of the lesser goddesses, our powers were so modest they could scarcely ensure our eternities. We spoke to fish and nurtured flowers, coaxed drops from the clouds or salt from the waves. That word, nymph , paced out the length and breadth of our futures. In our language, it means not just goddess, but bride . My mother was one of them, a naiad, guardian of fountains and streams. She caught my father's eye when he came to visit the halls of her own father, Oceanos. Helios and Oceanos were often at each other's tables in those days. They were cousins, and equal in age, though they did not look it. My father glowed bright as just-forged bronze, while Oceanos had been born with rheumy eyes and a white beard to his lap. Yet they were both Titans, and preferred each other's company to those new-squeaking gods upon ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  • Circe struggles to find a place for herself as a woman in a man's world. What parts of her experience resonate with modern day challenges that women face?
  • A central theme of Homer's Odyssey is a longing for "nostos"—homecoming. In what way does that theme resonate with Circe's story?
  • How does Circe's encounter with Prometheus change her? How does it continue to affect her actions?
  • Throughout the novel Circe draws distinctions between gods and mortals.  How does Glaucus change when he becomes a god?
  • Circe wonders if parents can ever see their children clearly. She notes that so often when looking at our children "we see only the mirror of our own faults." What parts of herself does she see when she looks at Telegonus...
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

award image

BookBrowse Awards 2018

Media Reviews

Reader reviews, bookbrowse review.

Much of Circe is an exploration into what it means to be female in a world of men and monsters. While it is usually tenuous to compare an author's latest novel to previous work, it does feel as if Miller wrote Circe as a conscious inversion of her prize-winning debut The Song of Achilles in nearly every aspect. The pool of inspiration may be the same – primarily Homer's epics – but whereas Achilles was very much a book about mortal men coming to grips with their own version of masculinity, Circe is about a divine woman trying to consolidate her myriad feminine identities as daughter, sister, lover, mother, witch, and goddess. Graceful and majestic in equal measures, Circe is sure to leave an indelible impression on readers both new and returning to Miller's singular reworkings of Greek myths... continued

Full Review (791 words) This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today .

(Reviewed by Dean Muscat ).

Write your own review!

Beyond the Book

Nymphs in greek mythology.

Circe, the nymph

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.


  • Genres & Themes

If you liked Circe, try these:

Glorious Exploits jacket

Glorious Exploits

by Ferdia Lennon

Published 2024

About this book

An utterly original celebration of that which binds humanity across battle lines and history.

Clytemnestra jacket


by Costanza Casati

Madeline Miller's Circe meets Cersei Lannister in a stunning debut following Clytemnestra, the most notorious heroine of the ancient world and the events that forged her into the legendary queen.

Books with similar themes

Support bookbrowse.

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more

Book Jacket: The Demon of Unrest

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket

Members Recommend

Book Jacket

Daughters of Shandong by Eve J. Chung

Eve J. Chung's debut novel recounts a family's flight to Taiwan during China's Communist revolution.

Book Jacket

This Strange Eventful History by Claire Messud

An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history.

Win This Book

Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Solve this clue:

and be entered to win..

Your guide to exceptional           books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Subscribe to receive some of our best reviews, "beyond the book" articles, book club info and giveaways by email.

UK Edition Change

  • UK Politics
  • News Videos
  • Paris 2024 Olympics
  • Rugby Union
  • Sport Videos
  • John Rentoul
  • Mary Dejevsky
  • Andrew Grice
  • Sean O’Grady
  • Photography
  • Theatre & Dance
  • Culture Videos
  • Fitness & Wellbeing
  • Food & Drink
  • Health & Families
  • Royal Family
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Car Insurance Deals
  • Lifestyle Videos
  • UK Hotel Reviews
  • News & Advice
  • Simon Calder
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • South America
  • C. America & Caribbean
  • Middle East
  • Politics Explained
  • News Analysis
  • Today’s Edition
  • Home & Garden
  • Broadband deals
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Travel & Outdoors
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Sustainable Living
  • Climate Videos
  • Solar Panels
  • Behind The Headlines
  • On The Ground
  • Decomplicated
  • You Ask The Questions
  • Binge Watch
  • Travel Smart
  • Watch on your TV
  • Crosswords & Puzzles
  • Most Commented
  • Newsletters
  • Ask Me Anything
  • Virtual Events
  • Betting Sites
  • Online Casinos
  • Wine Offers

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in Please refresh your browser to be logged in

Circe, Madeline Miller, review: Feminist rewrite of the Odyssey turns tale of subjugation into one of empowerment

Following her bestselling, prize-winning re-imagining of the 'iliad', miller turns to homer for inspiration once more, article bookmarked.

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile

book review of circe

For free real time breaking news alerts sent straight to your inbox sign up to our breaking news emails

Sign up to our free breaking news emails, thanks for signing up to the breaking news email.

The Song of Achilles , Madeline Miller ’s re-imagining of The Iliad that positioned the love story between Achilles and Patroclus centre stage, was both a bestseller and won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. With this recipe for success in hand, it’s not surprising that Miller – who teaches high school Latin and Greek – has turned to the same model for her thrilling second novel, Circe , though this time it’s the Odyssey that provides the primary text.

The powerful witch Circe, who waylays Odysseus and his men – turning the latter to pigs – on their long voyage home to Ithaca, is set free from the few meagre lines of text she’s afforded by Homer, and transformed here into the heroine of her own magnificent story. “How would the songs frame the scene?” Miller’s Circe often asks herself, well aware of the narrative control others exert over the story of her life.

The Classics are undergoing something of a feminist revisionist revolution right now. Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey – the first to be written by a woman – was published to great acclaim at the end of last year, and this August brings Booker Prize-winner Pat Barker’s new novel, The Silence of the Girls: a “radical retelling of The Iliad ” from the point of view of Briseis, the captured queen-turned-slave. So too, Miller’s Circe is a woman who will not be silenced.

“When I was born,” she begins her tale, “the name for what I was did not exist.” Circe’s witchcraft originates in her rage and jealousy, itself the result of years of harsh treatment at the hands of her more beautiful and powerful Titan kin – she is the firstborn of Helios the sun god and the beautiful nymph Perse (daughter of Oceanos). She’s dismissed as unattractive, her weak mortal’s voice considered most offensive of all, nevertheless she persists; one could well describe her as the original nasty woman.

One fears that once she’s banished to the island of Aiaia – punishment for transforming the beautiful but viper-hearted nymph Scylla, Circe’s rival in love, into a hideous sea monster – the narrative will stall. Instead, Miller weaves the tales of others – Medea, the bride of Jason with the blood of her brother still fresh on her hands; the birth and imprisonment of the bloodthirsty Minotaur; those the sorceress takes to her bed, Hermes, Daedalus, Odysseus, and finally his son Telemachus – in with Circe’s own, all as seamlessly as the beautiful cloth Circe herself spins on the splendid loom the master craftsman Daedalus builds her.

The enchantress’ “virtue” is “endurance,” and Circe is accosted with much that demands forbearance, all of which makes for gleeful, greedy reading. Written in prose that ripples with a gleaming hyperbole befitting the epic nature of the source material, there is nothing inaccessible or antiquated about either Circe or her adventures. Miller has effected a transformation just as impressive as any of her heroine’s own: she’s turned an ancient tale of female subjugation into one of empowerment and courage full of contemporary resonances.

'Circe' is published by Bloomsbury, £16.99

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article

Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.

New to The Independent?

Or if you would prefer:

Want an ad-free experience?

Hi {{indy.fullName}}

  • My Independent Premium
  • Account details
  • Help centre
  • Biggest New Books
  • Non-Fiction
  • All Categories
  • First Readers Club Daily Giveaway
  • How It Works

book review of circe

Embed our reviews widget for this book

book review of circe

Get the Book Marks Bulletin

Email address:

  • Categories Fiction Fantasy Graphic Novels Historical Horror Literary Literature in Translation Mystery, Crime, & Thriller Poetry Romance Speculative Story Collections Non-Fiction Art Biography Criticism Culture Essays Film & TV Graphic Nonfiction Health History Investigative Journalism Memoir Music Nature Politics Religion Science Social Sciences Sports Technology Travel True Crime

May 13 – 17, 2024


  • Brad Phillips on obsession, addiction, and Scrabble
  • Read Alice Munro’s 1994 interview with Jeanne McCulloch and Mona Simpson
  • Who are campuses meant to be safe for?

Bibliophilia Book Reviews

  • End of the Year
  • Monthly Wrap Up
  • Reviews for Self-Published/Indie Authors
  • Mid-Year Freak Out Tag

BOOK REVIEW: Circe by Madeline Miller

book review of circe

Hi everyone. Welcome back to Bibliophilia Book Reviews. Today I will review Circe by Madeline Miller. At a later date, I will also review The Song of Achilles , by the same author. Like all my reviews, this one too has spoilers.

Circe by Madeline Miller was first published on April 10 th , 2018, and it has become a critically acclaimed novel since then, winning, for example, the 2018 Book of the Year Award allotted by the Book of the Month subscription book box service and the 2019 Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in the Indies Choice Book Awards of that year. It was also selected as Book of the Year by media outlets such as Buzzfeed , Refinery29 , The Daily Telegraph , Guardian , Time Magazine , Washington Post , among others. Additionally, it was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, which the author had previously won for her debut novel The Song of Achilles in 2012. Moreover, the book received an exorbitant number of reviews praising it for its lyrical writing style, for making Greek mythology (more specifically, Homer’s The Iliad , with The Song of Achilles , and The Odyssey , with Circe ) more accessible to modern readers, for giving a feminist voice to one of the most enigmatic and intriguing figures of both Greek mythology and Western literature but who, at the same time, has been a victim of a narrative told by men, for giving her both a complex and sympathetic nature that has made modern readers identify with her more easily, despite having been born a goddess, in her various roles as witch, mother, wife, and lover…

Truth be told, it’s an impressive list of accolades. And I was a little hesitant to buy the book and read it when I first started seeing it everywhere. Both The Iliad and The Odyssey are books that I read in college, and to this day, The Iliad is my favorite book of all time. It is the book that made me fall in love with reading. So, needless to say, I’m an avid reader of Greek mythology. Books like Bulfinch’s Mythology , Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton, both Mythos and Heroes by Stephen Fry as well as Troy , countless copies of Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, Helen of Troy by Margaret George, the recently released A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (see my review here ), The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (see my review here) and of course both The Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller are all on my bookshelves. My reluctance to buy Circe when I was still debating whether to get it or not, however, was due to the fact that I didn’t know if it would live up to the hype. Nonetheless, I was still willing to give it a chance.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”

And I really liked it. In The Odyssey , Circe only appears in one book (chapter) of the poem. However, that was enough for her to leave her mark both in Greek mythology and Western literature even though she would also become one of the most misunderstood deities of the Greek pantheon because of her role as a sorceress and the image of a witch that transforms sailors into pigs that she gains just to force/convince Odysseus to stay with her and become her lover. But like most women in history and, in this case, mythology, there is more to Circe’s art of witchcraft and her ability to metamorphosize humans into pigs. Unfortunately, none of that is explained in Homer’s epic poem. Thus, she has been severely maligned by history and those that wrote it; like most women, she has not been given a chance to tell her own story. And that is what Madeline Miller has set out to do, and, boy, what a voice she has given her!

In Miller’s book, Circe is the daughter of the Titan Helios and the nymph Perse. But from a very early age, Circe knows that she is a pariah in her father’s house (palace) and is not wanted. She is deemed strange and different from all the other gods and goddesses, both Titans and Olympians alike. This, however, makes her dangerous to others and she is never fully accepted by those around her. Thus Madeline Miller puts forth the theme of the novel: that of a woman struggling to find a place for herself in a man’s (or gods’) world (something that many modern women can relate to) and, by extension, a longing of homecoming—a theme borrowed from The Odyssey , which chronicles Odysseus’ journey back home after the fall of Troy. Circe’s own journey and search for a home, a place where she can both belong to and be herself, however, begins ironically when she meets another Titan, her uncle Prometheus, who has been punished by Zeus for having given the gift of fire to mortals. And it is during this encounter that Circe first hears about mortals and can’t help but compare them to the gods and goddesses she has known all of her life. It is from this encounter with her uncle also that humans will thereafter be forever linked to Circe’s life, Odysseus chief among them.

“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.”

The first mortal Circe meets is Glaucos, whom she irrevocably falls in love with. Her love for him is such that she does everything in her power to turn him into a god, and she achieves this with the help of some flowers and herbs. She is, however, the first of her kind to ever accomplish this feat. And because nymphs have never been known to do this, no matter how much they’ve wanted to transform the objects of their affections into immortals, we know now that Circe is not a nymph despite having been born from one because she was able to transform Glaucos into a god.

Glaucos, however, changes completely once he is immortal and spurns Circe for her nemesis Scylla. And out of spite and jealousy, Circe transforms her into a six-headed monster. Circe, however, regrets her actions almost immediately and confesses her crime to her father. Helios, on the other hand, doesn’t believe her but when she shows him how she did it, she is deemed a danger to the gods and is exiled to Aiaia.

Aiaia, however, turns out to be the home Circe has always yearned for… and it is here that she hones the art of her witchcraft both by taming the animals of the island, for example, and making them into her companions and by tending her garden. But however beautiful her new home is, Circe is still lonely. And to abate the feeling, she welcomes both gods and mortals to her island, among them the messenger god Hermes, Daedalus, Jason and Medea, and Odysseus, who arrives at her doorstep to ask her to change his crew back into humans after she transforms them into pigs for trying to steal from her. 

“Only that: we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive.”

            All of these “visitors” to Circe’s island and her interactions with them, however, are important for her own transformation from a goddess to a mortal, a decision she makes at the end of the novel in order to both live and die during her husband’s lifetime. What is interesting about this is that her own transformation is both the complete opposite of how the novel began, where she transforms Glaucos into a god, and is the culmination of her own powers and gift, the gift of transformation, thus bringing the novel to a full circle. That was very well done. I gave this novel an A New Favorite rating.

Share this:

' src=


Leave a reply cancel reply.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

Notify me of new posts by email.

book review of circe

Common Sense Media

Movie & TV reviews for parents

  • For Parents
  • For Educators
  • Our Work and Impact

Or browse by category:

  • Get the app
  • Movie Reviews
  • Best Movie Lists
  • Best Movies on Netflix, Disney+, and More

Common Sense Selections for Movies

book review of circe

50 Modern Movies All Kids Should Watch Before They're 12

book review of circe

  • Best TV Lists
  • Best TV Shows on Netflix, Disney+, and More
  • Common Sense Selections for TV
  • Video Reviews of TV Shows

book review of circe

Best Kids' Shows on Disney+

book review of circe

Best Kids' TV Shows on Netflix

  • Book Reviews
  • Best Book Lists
  • Common Sense Selections for Books

book review of circe

8 Tips for Getting Kids Hooked on Books

book review of circe

50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They're 12

  • Game Reviews
  • Best Game Lists

Common Sense Selections for Games

  • Video Reviews of Games

book review of circe

Nintendo Switch Games for Family Fun

book review of circe

  • Podcast Reviews
  • Best Podcast Lists

Common Sense Selections for Podcasts

book review of circe

Parents' Guide to Podcasts

book review of circe

  • App Reviews
  • Best App Lists

book review of circe

Social Networking for Teens

book review of circe

Gun-Free Action Game Apps

book review of circe

Reviews for AI Apps and Tools

  • YouTube Channel Reviews
  • YouTube Kids Channels by Topic

book review of circe

Parents' Ultimate Guide to YouTube Kids

book review of circe

YouTube Kids Channels for Gamers

  • Preschoolers (2-4)
  • Little Kids (5-7)
  • Big Kids (8-9)
  • Pre-Teens (10-12)
  • Teens (13+)
  • Screen Time
  • Social Media
  • Online Safety
  • Identity and Community

book review of circe

Explaining the News to Our Kids

  • Family Tech Planners
  • Digital Skills
  • All Articles
  • Latino Culture
  • Black Voices
  • Asian Stories
  • Native Narratives
  • LGBTQ+ Pride
  • Best of Diverse Representation List

book review of circe

Celebrating Black History Month

book review of circe

Movies and TV Shows with Arab Leads

book review of circe

Celebrate Hip-Hop's 50th Anniversary

Common sense media reviewers.

book review of circe

Lurid, violent, imaginative tale told by mythical sorceress.

Circe book cover: Stylized, mythological Greek woman's face in orange on black background

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Lots of in-depth detail about Greek mythology -- t

Making the best of grotesquely evil, violent circu

Penelope and Telemachus are basically good, ethica

All the characters are from Greek mythology. Both

As told in the original myths, the whole tale is a

Sex is not not explicitly described, but over the

Especially early in the narrative, cursing and cru

Characters drink alcohol, often to excess; Circe o

Parents need to know that Circe , by classical scholar and author Madeline Miller, first published in 2018, is a best-selling, imaginative, lurid and violent story of the legendary sorceress, written for an adult audience but also popular with teens. Poets have told of Circe's magic, power, lovers, and…

Educational Value

Lots of in-depth detail about Greek mythology -- the Titans, the Olympian gods, their lurid and violent doings (like Kronos devouring his children), and the many ways they find to mess with the lives of mortals. Like the Trojan War and its aftermath. The tales of the Minotaur, Theseus, and Ariadne; Daedalus and Icarus; Jason and Medea; and other mythological stories are interwoven with Circe's narrative.

Positive Messages

Making the best of grotesquely evil, violent circumstances when you're stuck with them, and doing better when you're shown a better way. Love and kindness offer hope and, possibly, redemption. Making amends for your past misdeeds. Resourceful problem-solving. The life-changing discovery that decent, honest people actually exist.

Positive Role Models

Penelope and Telemachus are basically good, ethical people trying to do right in dire circumstances; Telemachus in particular is haunted by murders he's done because his father ordered it, and seeks to live a better life. Circe is trying to do better, against the odds; she is kind to Prometheus when he's tortured and suffering. Her son Telegonus is kind-hearted and empathetic. Daedalus, who's guilt-ridden about the Minotaur and his many victims, is devoted to his son Icarus, and becomes one of Circe's lovers. Everyone else is pretty much useless, evil, or both, and perfectly willing to lie, maim, and kill to get their way. Like Medea, who kills her brother and throws his body parts in the water to delay her pursuing father.

Diverse Representations

All the characters are from Greek mythology. Both gay and straight romantic/sexual relationships are part of the story.

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

As told in the original myths, the whole tale is awash in violence, treachery, and gore. Coming from a family where her uncle was known for devouring his children, and all her relatives are murderously self-serving, Circe does plenty of violent deeds, like turning a romantic rival into a legendary, seafarer-devouring monster. Raped by a pirate, she responds by turning him and his crew (who were planning to take their own turns) into pigs and hacking them to bits. She also drugs many (male) visitors to her island before killing them. Much hacking, slashing, butchery, ritual sacrifice, and two lengthy, graphically described C-sections. One self-administered and the other involving the birth of the Minotaur. The beating of Prometheus, prior to his being chained to a mountain and having his liver devoured anew each day by eagles, is gruesomely described; his fate is important to the story. Many gods and humans are sexual predators, taking what they want and leaving destruction in their wake -- and the skills of treachery and manipulation necessary to deal with them are a strong theme. Assorted massacres of innocents for convenience or political gain; few perpetrators feel guilty about it. A cheating husband's partners all die -- because his wife has cast a spell that turns his semen to snakes and scorpions that kill them from within. The murder of Hector's baby son Astyanax at the end of the Trojan War is vividly described.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Sex is not not explicitly described, but over the many centuries of the story, Circe has several lovers, humans and gods (though not nearly as many as imaginative poets have described from Homer to the present day). Being immortal, she's fated to outlive the mortals -- which gets stranger than usual when she falls in love with an ex's son. Of her relationship with the god Hermes, she says, "He was a poison snake, and I was another, and on such terms we pleased ourselves." As told in The Odyssey , Penelope is harassed by suitors who want to marry her for her money, which is also Odysseus' money. Circe's father regards his many female children as lucrative, power-building assets in his dealings with kings and gods. He also transforms himself into a bull to have sex with his prized cows and breed new ones; Circe's sister has sex with a bull and gives birth to the Minotaur. Circe wonders if her siblings are having sex with each other -- it's not uncommon among gods, so she thinks it's likely.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Especially early in the narrative, cursing and crude language, often brutal, as when the character who gives birth to the Minotaur announces "I f---ed the bull." Later, in the throes of labor, "I've had eight children! Just cut the f---ing thing out of me!" Circe's eyes are described as the color of piss. References to bastards, especially of gods.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink alcohol, often to excess; Circe often gets unwelcome visitors drunk.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Circe , by classical scholar and author Madeline Miller, first published in 2018, is a best-selling, imaginative, lurid and violent story of the legendary sorceress, written for an adult audience but also popular with teens. Poets have told of Circe's magic, power, lovers, and children (often in contradictory narratives driven by the poet's era and agenda) from Homer to the present. In this version, which follows much of the classics and will be familiar to mythology-loving readers, a young, unloved daughter of the sun god, born to a nightmare world of murderous, sociopathic divinities, experiments with magic and is exiled to a remote island, where over the centuries she encounters Daedalus, takes him as a lover, and becomes involved in the birth of the Minotaur. Later, Odysseus arrives on the island, fathers her son, and sets in motion many of the events that follow. Sadistic violence, rape, betrayal, bestiality (especially with cows), and incest were pretty much everyday occurrences with the Greek gods, and most of it is on parade here, with the rest broadly hinted at. The discovery that decent, honest people exist is life-changing for Circe -- but there's a whole lot of dark, gruesome, evil stuff on the way to it.

Where to Read

Community reviews.

  • Parents say (1)

Based on 1 parent review

What's the Story?

CIRCE, daughter of the sun god Helios, is born into a toxic world of recent cosmic upheaval -- one of her uncles, Kronos, has devoured all his children until their desperate mother spirits baby Zeus to safety, Zeus returns to force Kronos to vomit his devoured children, and they all join Zeus to become gods of Olympus. Feuding, scheming, treachery, and murder ensue, the gods mess with humans for sport, and soon to unfold, the tales of the Minotaur, the Golden Fleece, the Odyssey, and more. Circe, a lot more innocent than her family members and often called ugly and stupid, falls in love with a mortal who's an undeserving jerk even before she uses magic to make him a god, and transforms her rival for his affections into a legendary monster. Exiled to a remote island for her bold rule-breaking by a father who happily reduces people to ash, she delves into the world of herbs, potions, and magic, and finds her power.

"For a hundred generations, I had walked the world drowsy and dull, idle and at my ease. I left no prints, I did no deeds. Even those who had loved me a little did not care to stay. Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow. I would have done that toil a thousand times to keep such power in my hands. I thought: this is how Zeus felt when he first lifted the thunderbolt."

Is It Any Good?

Madeline Miller's best-selling tale revisits the dark, lurid doings of Greek gods in the wake of a cosmic battle, as seen through the eyes of the lecherous, murderous sun god's unloved daughter. In this imaginative, vivid retelling, Circe struggles amid the carnage to navigate her treacherous world, and over many centuries delves into magic, turns her rival into the monster Scylla, and takes as lovers lost sailors Daedalus and Odysseus, whose deeds are often seen here more for their harm than their glory. The discovery that honest, decent people exist points to new and unimagined possibilities, but like the narrator, the reader may often feel helplessly overwhelmed by evil forces along the way to the glimmers of hope.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about stories like Circe that are based on characters in classical mythology -- and how each version of the tale reflects its author's time, place, and agenda. Over the centuries, murderous Medea has been spun as everything from a monster to a feminist icon; how do you think this version of Circe's story compares with others you know -- and what messages might that imply?

Why do you think some cultures see gods as showing the best qualities of humans, and others see them gleefully outdoing the worst of human deeds? How would it change your life if you believed one or the other?

Using magic to control other people -- good? evil? it depends?

Book Details

  • Author : Madeline Miller
  • Genre : Fantasy
  • Topics : Magic and Fantasy , Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
  • Character Strengths : Perseverance
  • Book type : Fiction
  • Publisher : Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date : April 10, 2018
  • Publisher's recommended age(s) : 18 - 18
  • Number of pages : 400
  • Available on : Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated : May 11, 2024

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Suggest an Update

Our editors recommend.

The Odyssey Poster Image

The Odyssey

Want personalized picks for your kids' age and interests?

Norse Mythology

Lovely War Poster Image

Best Mythology Books for Kids and Teens

Historical fiction, related topics.

  • Perseverance
  • Magic and Fantasy
  • Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires

Want suggestions based on your streaming services? Get personalized recommendations

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

May 18, 2024

News and Notions From the Bennington College Community

Book Review: “Circe” by Madeline Miller

Teju Cole, in describing the way a curtain hangs in one of the many German hotel rooms he has inhabited, describes the creases in the fabric as “the divine enfolded in skin.” He sees, in the simplicity of the fabric, an enriching power of the self rooted in the body—the way it bends and creases, at rest and motion simultaneously, expands, contracts, inhales, exhales. A self-supporting system in an imbroglio of entangled systems stitched together to create a curtain, a swath of cloth, cut from other cloth, made from other threads and folds, bendable, luminescent. A creator of light and shadow alike. It blocks the all-mighty glow of an imposing sun; it enshrines the human spatially in a cocoon.

He finds, then, in this fabric, the power humans have over themselves; a seemingly divine power that, when pushed from the inside out, swells into being. The ordinariness of the human, the specificity of the lives they live, the vitality of their self-hood, the richness of their efforts, are endowed by themselves with power.

Madeline Miller’s book Circe bears conceptual similarities; in the nuances of its mythos it enfolds the electric, kinetic capabilities of our humanity in the self-made, effortful portrait of Circe, a witch who—through the tenacity of her own desires—swells into a power of her own construction.

In the book, Miller gives an epic retelling of Circe’s mythical legacy; sprung from the shadow of the space outside the page, she pieces several stories together—Odysseus’s journey and death, the tale of Telemachus, the Trojan War, amongst others.

Circe, daughter of the Titan Helios, banished to the island Aiaia for turning a nymph—Scylla—into a hulking monster, struggles with the loneliness of exile, the cruelties of men, the fears of motherhood, and the immeasurable journey of growing old and strong in her own skin (mostly while she is alone, as the world unfolds around her). To summarize the book would be to reconnect the stories which hold Circe as a unifying thread (the plight of Medea, the odyssey of Odysseus, the birth of the Minotaur and its labyrinth, all stack atop each other as moments testing the power, resolve, and affection of a witch growing into the vibrancies of her power).

Despite the fact that the book is structured in this long-winding, seemingly patchwork sense, rooted in the interiority of a character locked in perpetual stasis reaching outward into the world through the people she encounters, Miller colors the text with a vibrant, electric, and archaic voice, rich in the translatory power of the ancient myth, but rooted in the familiarity of the human.

For instance, when her son—Telegonus, son of Odysseus—asks her permission to leave the island, Circe is upset. Athena has placed a threat upon her and her son, vowing to take him for her own in an act of revenge against Odysseus. In an attempt to keep the goddess at bay, Circe cloaks the island in magic; a spell to hide the island, another to keep Athena away, a dual concoction tied to Circe’s own person and life force, an extension of herself in divine form, an exhausting effort, especially in its early creation, as the unruly baby Telegonus challenged her will. Now, her only son, who for sixteen years has been by her side and poses as a sliver of the man she fell in love with within the years past, seeks not only to leave her side but to step head-first into death. “For sixteen years,” Circe fumes, “I had been holding up the sky, and he had not noticed. I should have forced him to go with me, to pick those plants that saved his life. I should have made him understand all I had carried in silence, all that I had done for his safekeeping” (Miller 272).

Here, Miller places Circe at the center of a web. Around her rests her son and his ambitions, the spell protecting them both from an all-powerful threat, the effort of that magic, the toil of working and stitching the spell together from the earth to make the enchantment—an entangled thread being pulled loose from Circe’s fingers. This tension, however, is not inhibitory; rather, it allows Circe to grow into herself further—she eventually allows Telegonus to go, outfitting him with an all-powerful weapon—the tail of Trygon, whose venom kills even gods upon contact—which she acquired by facing Trygon himself, prepared to bear eternal pain for the sake of her son (she comes out unharmed).

This network defines the intensity of Circe’s journey. She is poised against a heap of conflict that rests outside her agency (i.e. the threat of Athena, the notion of eternal pain to save her son,) and enshrouds herself in a power born from the vitality of her own personhood. It is not an outside entity from whom Circe derives her power, nor an abstract divinity; she weaves spells from the toil of work, cultivating the earth, communing with it to produce a reaction through a kind of symbiosis. It moves, from the inside of her body outwards, in congruence with the earth, not in a binary dynamic, but a shared, collective. Likewise, in the face of certain pain, she steps forward to accept its weight from Trygon for her son, a sacrifice that she did not have to make, because the notion of the act itself was enough to sway him. In other words, Circe, by the fortitude of her own resolve, creates her own power, and uses it to denature the forces around her that meddle in the vitality of her life and love. No one can harm Telegonus; how could they, against a figure, a mother, engulfed by the vitality of love, found within herself, and given manifestation in the physical earth through magic?

Circe pours power from within herself, formalizing it in her decisions and her magic, creating a network with the outside world—including its conflicts—that is enriched by her own femininity, her own motherhood. In a world that seeks to strangle her power as a woman, she—in an act of divine resiliency—crafts its antithesis.

As a result, Miller constructs a story that, with its mythical form, is able to bend itself into new angles, that it may prismatically produce new bursts of light. Circe is reworked from a figure of antagonistic sentiment to a nuanced, rich, and complex character, tangible, vibrant, and electrified by the sheerness of her humanity, by her proximity to us as readers. Mythos, here, is a film, a medium, on which Miller has painted a figure of self-making power in the form of Circe.

Her prose behaves in a similar fashion. Miller’s prose is active, spiced with the same effort of Circe’s resolve: “I cupped my own hands in the dark,” Miller writes, “ I did not have a thousand wiles, and I was no fixed star, yet, for the first time I felt something in that space. A hope, a living breath, that might yet grow between” (226). From this void, the ethereal miasma of existence and nonexistence, the eternal “middle ground” within which we intersect and translate ourselves and the world around us, Miller stitches together a narrative bound by other narratives, a story folded within stories, exhuming a rich, resonant voice from between the blank verse of classical texts.

Her prose, at once incantatory and catalogic, capable of erupting with kinetic force to catalyze the story into motion (I tremble at the cosmic, hulking mass of tentacles Scylla spills from her body to halt Circe’s journey to Minos,) and likewise calm, tranquil, a miasma of image and sensation, of plants and vines swimming before her eyes, dirtying her hands, latching beneath the beds of her nails, clinging to nest-like hair. It is more than illustration; the book moves fluidly as a paintbrush, gliding with tenacity before slowing at the minute details that define and enrich the piece itself.

As a result, Miller’s book is rich with a self-creating vibrancy, a woven, viscous tapestry. It is shaped, like clay, from the effort of her own hands, just as Circe creates her own cosmic power, reaching into herself, into the earth, “elbow deep” at times to pull from the “divinity enfolded” in her skin. The book is Miller’s own testament to this work, and is as powerful, spellbinding, and moving as the sacrifices her Circe makes, as the power she makes from the calluses of her well-worn hands. 

Published in Arts & Reviews

Dylan Walawender

Dylan Walawander is a third-term student studying literature and film. He is a book critic contributing review essays, essays on fiction, and nonfiction works. He is also a website administrator.

book review of circe

Be First to Comment

Leave a reply cancel reply.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.


Elif Notes

  • Books & Reviews


Circe by Madeline Miller | Summary & Review

book review of circe

Circe by Madeline Miller is a pensive and entertaining book. It is Miller’s second novel after debut The Song of Achilles . Vividly lush in description of Greek gods and goddesses, this unique book has a tendency to take us to a world we had never allowed ourselves to imagine. 

Circe by Madeline Miller: Introduction

  • Released on: April 10, 2018
  • Suitable for Age group: 14 and above. 
  • My Rating of Circe :   4.7/5
  • Circe Book Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, Circe by Madeline Miller narrates the alienation, power, and hankering of the Greek goddess, Circe, caught between gods and mortals. Besides being a novel based on ancient Greek mythology, Circe is an amazing story of self-discovery. You can still enjoy the book if you don’t know much about Greek mythology. 


Table of Contents

1. Circe by Madeline Miller: Book Summary

Madeline Miller’s compelling and engaging book, Circe, reimagines the myth of the sorceress Circe, who doesn’t take up much space in Homer’s Odyssey . Miller has drawn on a wide range of ancient Greek and Latin sources to tell this amazing story. She has beautifully and brilliantly reshaped ancient stories, themes, and characters in a uniquely modern light. The book is enormously readable and evocative.

Let’s probe into the story of Circe by Madeline Miller…

Circe book summary and review

1.1 A Misfit in the House of Gods 

Circe is a daughter of the god of sun, Helios, and the Oceanid nymph, Perse. Neither mighty like her father nor viciously bewitching like her mother, she is an extremely odd child with a human voice grating to the ears of the gods. She is absolutely unlike other gods and, with her hawkish nose and yellow eyes, looks strange among them. Her father is extremely disappointed by her physical appearance. 

To keep her out of the sight of people, Circe’s father banishes her to the underground halls of his palace. Still, many see her and invariably make fun of her. Besides, Circe’s has an impotent and whimpering temperament which further makes her an embarrassment to her family. Since her birth, she is unable to capture the attention of her parents and siblings. She is despised by her divine family and, in fact, a misfit in the house of the gods. 

1.2 Circe’s Alienated Childhood

Circe spends most of her childhood in loneliness. Her siblings always mock her and never allow her to get intimate with them. She suffers the pangs of isolation until Aeetes, her youngest brother, is born. As Aeetes grows up, he becomes Circe’s best companion. We see both of them spending every moment together. But Aeetes has to go away to be the king of his own land and Circe is, unfortunately, alone once again. After that she spends most of her time in despair. 

1.3 Circe’s Solace in Mortal World

Circe’s loneliness and despair compel her to turn to the world of mortals for companionship. This is the turning point in her life. She finds solace in love with a mortal, Glaucos, who, unlike Circe, is destined to die and leave her alone . To save him from death, she desperately starts experimenting with different herbs and potions. 

1.4 The Discovery of Her Hidden Talent

At that time, experimenting with different herbs and potions, Circe discovers her hidden power – the power of witchcraft. The power that has the ability to bend the world to her will. Moreover, she discovers that her powerful black magic can transform humans into monsters or animals and even endanger the gods. A misfit among the gods before, now has become a threat for them.

1.5 Circe’s Exile to a Deserted Island

Circe uses her powers to turn her beloved, Glaucos, into an immortal sea-god. After becoming a sea-god, Glaucos unfortunately falls in love with a nymph, Scylla. Triggered by jealousy, Circe turns beautiful yet malicious Scylla into a six-headed sea monster. For her practice of witchcraft, Zeus, the god of the sky, banishes her from the halls of Helios to the deserted island of Aeaea. Here, she becomes an eternal captive. 

But instead of being afraid of isolation at a deserted island, she begins to hone her witchcraft by drawing strength from the plants and flowers. With the passage of time she becomes more and more powerful. The island of Aeaea becomes her permanent abode where the lions and wolves are her companions. 

1.6 Circe’s Encounter with Odysseus & Other Mythological Figures

At the island of Aeaea, Circe meets some unexpected visitors who are also the famous figures of Greek mythology. These visitors include the craftsman Daedalus, his doomed son Icarus, the monster Minotaur, the murderous Medea and her beloved Jason, and the legendary king of Ithaca, Odysseus. Odysseus becomes her lover and, in hope of ending her loneliness, leaves her with a child.

1.7 Dramatic Tensions in Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a lonely woman and there is always a danger for a woman who stands alone. During her journey, she also suffers a lot. Unintentionally, she becomes the cause of anger for both gods and men and sets herself in opposition with one of the most formidable and vengeful Olympians. For her survival, she has to make a choice between the worlds of immortality, which she is born from, and mortality, which she has come to love. She bravely fights for her place in a world between the mortals and the gods. 

1.8 Circe’s Self Discovery

Circe learns so many lessons from her life. Every incident that happens either at the halls of Helios or the deserted island of Aeaea has left her with a valuable lesson. Her long term suffering leads to the discovery of her rightful place in the world. She subsequently stands up to those who had mistreated her in the past. The tough times she faces since her childhood have left her with ultimate strength and boldness. 

Despite being the daughter of a god, she loves mortality. She learns from her life that immortality is not a blessing indeed. Instead, it’s a never-ending curse of committing the same mistakes again and again. 

1.9 Circe Book Ending

The novel ends with Circe’s vision of herself as a mortal. She is resolute in transforming herself with the same spell that began her adventure with witchcraft. Towards the end of the book, Circe enlightens us with the blessing of being mortal in such words:

I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.

 “ I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands….I have a mortal’s voice, let me have the rest.”

2. Circe by Madeline Miller: Book Review 

Circe book by Madeline Miller is a feminist retelling of Homer’s Odyssey . The novel beautifully reveals the Greek goddess’s quest for self-identity and her constant fight between mortality and divinity. Circe, the sorceress, is a dynamic hero of her own epic. Throughout the story, we see different shades of her character. She is initially submissive, then compassionate and later on, becomes complex and imperfect. Hereafter, she eventually grows into an assertive woman who refuses to be walked all over. Circe learns to trust in herself, her skills and abilities to withstand it all. She also learns the significance of balancing trust and self-protection. She loves mortality and eventually finds her true place in the mortal world. 

Circe US vs UK Book Cover

Circe’s character is depicted by Madeline Miller in a way that grounds her in reality despite her divine origins. Miller’s prose possesses dreamlike simplicity. Her depiction of what it feels like to work magic is extraordinarily brilliant and convincing. Besides its beautiful story, the novel is rich in language and dynamic in characterization. Miller makes brilliant and powerful use of imagery and emotion in depicting the story of a fierce goddess who only occupied a few dozen lines in Homer’s The Odyssey . This book is a triumph of storytelling and must be an immense gift to all who read to seek their own bravery and quest. 

Circe is also an extremely significant and highly recommended piece of feminist literature. It deals with powerful themes such as gender dynamics, power politics, personal growth, mortality vs immortality, fate, self-determination, freedom, and maturity. The book inspires women to be bold and aspire to be more than what society perceives them.

Add to Cart:   Amazon | Bookshop

2.1 Is Circe only a Good Book for Greek Mythology Lovers?

Circe is especially a gift for people who like Greek mythology, dense intricate plots, and more formal writing. But you can still enjoy the book if you’re not a big fan of Greek mythology. Thanks to Madeline Miller! She has given a glossary of characters at the back of the book that explains everyone’s role in depth. You can have a look at it to get some understanding of Greek gods and goddesses. 

3. About Circe Book Author: Madeline Miller

Madeline Millar is an American novelist. She was born in Boston and grew up in New York and Philadelphia. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classics (Latin and Ancient Greek) from Brown University. For over fifteen years, she has been teaching Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare to high school students. 

Miller has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adaptation of classical tales to modern forms. She currently lives in Narberth, PA, where she writes and tutors. She has won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction for her first novel, The Song of Achilles.  

One of the things about Greek mythology that’s so interesting is just how horrible the gods are. The gods are really not exemplars. You might aspire to have the kind of power that they have, but, for the most part, they aren’t virtuous. They’re petty and selfish.

You can follow Madeline Miller on social media:

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

4. Circe Vs The Songs of Achilles

Madeline Miller’s debut novel The Song of Achilles takes us on a tour of ancient Greece, and retells the siege of Troy from the point of view of Patroclus, an awkward young prince. The story of this book is profoundly moving, breathtaking and also contemplates the importance of myths in today’s modern world.


Like its predecessor, The Song of Achilles , Miller’s second hit novel, Circe , also takes the same stimulating approach to ancient Greek literature. Miller brings a classic story of female empowerment by weaving together Homer’s tale with other ancient sources. 

Both these books of Madeline Miller narrates a familiar ancient tale from the perspective of previously muted voices of people in Greek mythology. For instance, in her first book, Miller gives voice to Achilles’s lover Patroclus who was a minor character in the Iliad . In her second book, she has given voice to Circe, the witch who turned men into pigs in Homer’s Odyssey . These people were formerly seen only from the outside in the originals.

5. Circe: Awards and Honors

After its publication, Circe by Madeline Miller became a New York Times No. 1 bestseller. It has won the Indies Choice Best Adult Fiction of the Year Award as well as the Indies Choice Best Audiobook of the Year Award . Miller’s Circe has also been shortlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction and won an American Library Association Alex Award as well. Moreover, the book has also won the Goodreads Choice Awards 2018 for Fantasy Fiction.

I would say, some people are like constellations that only touch the earth for a season.

Circe by Madeline Miller, is a highly recommended book and, indeed, deserves a good place on your bookshelf! I hope you all enjoyed this review!

book review of circe

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy our reviews on:

  • Most Bewitching Books Similar to Circe
  • Some Amazing Christmas Reads for Adults
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

All The Best Books By Agatha Christie In Order

Related posts.


25 Books Like ‘It Ends With Us’ That Are Equally Heart-Wrenching Yet Uplifting


STEM Romance Books like The Love Hypothesis


20 Bewitching Books To Read If You loved Circe by Madeline Miller


12 Books like Sally Rooney’s ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’

book review of circe

20 African American Books You Must Read During Black History Month 2024

Southern Gothic | Definition, History, Characteristics & Famous Writers

  • Affiliate Disclosure
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms & Conditions

© 2022 Elif Notes - Your Guide to Literature

book review of circe

book review of circe

  • Literature & Fiction
  • Genre Fiction

Audible Logo

Promotions apply when you purchase

These promotions will be applied to this item:

Some promotions may be combined; others are not eligible to be combined with other offers. For details, please see the Terms & Conditions associated with these promotions.

Audiobook Price: $21.83 $21.83

Save: $8.84 $8.84 (40%)

Buy for others

Buying and sending ebooks to others.

  • Select quantity
  • Buy and send eBooks
  • Recipients can read on any device

These ebooks can only be redeemed by recipients in the US. Redemption links and eBooks cannot be resold.

book review of circe

Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required .

Read instantly on your browser with Kindle for Web.

Using your mobile phone camera - scan the code below and download the Kindle app.

QR code to download the Kindle App

Follow the author

Madeline Miller

Image Unavailable


  • To view this video download Flash Player

book review of circe

CIRCE Kindle Edition

  • Print length 433 pages
  • Language English
  • Sticky notes On Kindle Scribe
  • Publisher Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date April 10, 2018
  • File size 2219 KB
  • Page Flip Enabled
  • Word Wise Enabled
  • Enhanced typesetting Enabled
  • See all details

Customers who bought this item also bought

The Song of Achilles: A Novel

From the Publisher

Circe, Madeline Miller, Song of Achilles, New York Times Bestseller

Editorial Reviews

About the author, product details.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B074M5TLLJ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Little, Brown and Company (April 10, 2018)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ April 10, 2018
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 2219 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 433 pages
  • #3 in Military Historical Fiction
  • #4 in Mythology (Kindle Store)
  • #5 in Classic Literary Fiction

Videos for this product

Video Widget Card

Click to play video

Video Widget Video Title Section

Is Circe a Novel You Should Really Read?

🏆 Top-Rated Review: Jonny Costa ✅

book review of circe

If You Love Ancient Greece, You've Got to Read Circe

Honest Reviews with Natalie

book review of circe

Merchant Video

About the author

Madeline miller.

Madeline Miller grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. She has taught and tutored Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare to high school students for over fifteen years. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms.

The Song of Achilles, her first novel, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction and was a New York Times Bestseller. Her second novel, Circe, was an instant number 1 New York Times bestseller, and won the Indies Choice Best Adult Fiction of the Year Award and the Indies Choice Best Audiobook of the Year Award, as well as being shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction. Circe also won The Red Tentacle Award, an American Library Association Alex Award (adult books of special interest to teen readers), and the 2018 Elle Big Book Award. Miller's novels have been translated into over twenty-five languages including Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Greek, and her essays have appeared in a number of publications including the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Telegraph, Lapham's Quarterly and Most recently, she has published a standalone short story, Galatea. She currently lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit her website at:

Photo credit: Nina Subin

Customer reviews

Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.

Reviews with images

Customer Image

  • Sort reviews by Top reviews Most recent Top reviews

Top reviews from the United States

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. please try again later..

book review of circe

Top reviews from other countries

book review of circe

Report an issue

  • Amazon Newsletter
  • About Amazon
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability
  • Press Center
  • Investor Relations
  • Amazon Devices
  • Amazon Science
  • Sell on Amazon
  • Sell apps on Amazon
  • Supply to Amazon
  • Protect & Build Your Brand
  • Become an Affiliate
  • Become a Delivery Driver
  • Start a Package Delivery Business
  • Advertise Your Products
  • Self-Publish with Us
  • Become an Amazon Hub Partner
  • › See More Ways to Make Money
  • Amazon Visa
  • Amazon Store Card
  • Amazon Secured Card
  • Amazon Business Card
  • Shop with Points
  • Credit Card Marketplace
  • Reload Your Balance
  • Amazon Currency Converter
  • Your Account
  • Your Orders
  • Shipping Rates & Policies
  • Amazon Prime
  • Returns & Replacements
  • Manage Your Content and Devices
  • Recalls and Product Safety Alerts
  • Conditions of Use
  • Privacy Notice
  • Consumer Health Data Privacy Disclosure
  • Your Ads Privacy Choices

Get recommended reads, deals, and more from Hachette

By clicking ‘Sign Up,’ I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Hachette Book Group’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

Site Preferences

Free shipping on orders $45+ Shop Now .



By Madeline Miller

Formats and Prices

  • Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
  • Trade Paperback
  • Mass Market
  • Audiobook CD (Unabridged)
  • Hardcover $30.00 $38.00 CAD
  • ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD
  • Trade Paperback $18.99 $23.99 CAD
  • Mass Market $9.99
  • Audiobook CD (Unabridged) $35.00 $45.50 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 10, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Also available from:

  • Barnes & Noble
  • Books-A-Million


  • Winner of the 2019 Indie Choice Award Shortlisted for the 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction Named one of the 'Best Books of 2018' by NPR, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, People, Time, Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Newsweek, the A.V. Club, Christian Science Monitor, Southern Living, and Refinery 29.
  • "Circe,' [is] a bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story that manages to be both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the Odyssey as a hero in her own right." Alexandra Alter, New York Times
  • "One of the most amazing qualities of this novel [is]: We know how everything here turns out - we've known it for thousands of years - and yet in Miller's lush reimagining, the story feels harrowing and unexpected. The feminist light she shines on these events never distorts their original shape; it only illuminates details we hadn't noticed before." Ron Charles, Washington Post
  • "[Miller] gives voice to Circe as a multifaceted and evolving character...'Circe' is very pleasurable to read, combining lively versions of familiar tales and snippets of other, related standards with a highly psychologized, redemptive and ultimately exculpatory account of the protagonist herself." Claire Messud, New York Times Book Review
  • "The story of Circe's entanglement with Odysseus lasts far beyond the narrative of "The Odyssey," making for compelling material to revisit. But ultimately it's as a character that Circe stands apart....Through her elegant, psychologically acute prose, Miller gives us a rich female character who inhabits the spaces in between." Colleen Abel, Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • "Miller's lush, gold-lit novel - told from the perspective of the witch whose name in Greek has echoes of a hawk and a weaver's shuttle - paints another picture: of a fierce goddess who, yes, turns men into pigs, but only because they deserve it."
  • "so vivid, so layered, you could get lost in it... Whether or not you think you like Greek Mythology, this is just great storytelling. It feels cinematic." NPR's Here & Now
  • "Spellbinding..Miller has created a daring feminist take on a classic narrative; although the setting is a mystical world of gods, monsters, and nymphs, the protagonist at its heart is like any of us." O Magazine
  • "Miller's spell builds slowly, but by the last page you'll be in awe. In prose of dreamlike simplicity, she reimagines the myth of Circe." People
  • "Miller, with her academic bona fides and born instinct for storytelling, seamlessly grafts modern concepts of selfhood and independence to her mystical reveries of smoke and silver, nectar and bones." Entertainment Weekly
  • "This telling, in the sorceress's own words, is not the version we think we know." New York Times 'T Magazine'
  • "Miller gives voice to a previously muted perspective in the classics, forging a great romance from the scraps left to us by the ancients.... Circe is, instead, a romp, an airy delight, a novel to be gobbled greedily in a single sitting ." Aida Edemariam, Guardian
  • "In Madeline Miller's "Circe" - the gorgeous and gimlet-eyed follow-up to her Orange Prize-winning first novel, "The Song of Achilles" - the goddess is young and romantic enough at the start to feel a tiny bit let down that she's not shackled to a rock like her uncle, Prometheus, getting her liver pecked out each day."   Laura Collins-Hughes, Boston Globe
  • Ambitious in scope, Circe is above all the chronicle of an outsider woman who uses her power and wits to protect herself and the people she loves, ultimately looking within to define herself. Readers will savor the message of standing against a hostile world and forging a new way." Shelf Awareness
  • "A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch... [Circe is] a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller's dazzling second novel....Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child....Expect Miller's readership to mushroom like one of Circe's spells. Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters." Kirkus, Starred Review
  • "An epic spanning thousands of years that's also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner." Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth
  • "With lyric beauty of language and melancholy evocative of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn", CIRCE asks all the big questions of existence while framing them in the life story of the famous goddess who had the magic of transformations. A veritable Who's Who of the gods of Olympus and the heroes of ancient Greece, Circe knows them all and we see them through her perceptive eyes. This is as close as you will ever come to entering the world of mythology as a participant. Stunning, touching, and unique." Margaret George, author of The Confessions of Young Nero
  • "Circe bears its own transformative magic, a power enabled by Miller's keen eye for beauty, adventure, and reinvention. Through the charms of a misfit heroine, the world of gods becomes stunningly alive, and the world of our own humanity--its questions, loves, and bonds--is illuminated. This book is an immense gift to anyone who reads to find their own bravery and quest." Affinity Konar, author of Mischling
  • "Madeline Miller, master storyteller, conjures Circe glowing and alive - and makes the Gods, nymphs and heroes of ancient Greece walk forth in all their armored splendor. Richly detailed and written with such breathtaking command of story, you will be held enchanted. A breathtaking novel." Helen Simonson, author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
  • " Circe is the utterly captivating, exquisitely written, story of an ordinary, and extraordinary, woman's life" Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
  • "Written with power and grace, this enchanting, startling, gripping story casts a spell as strong and magical as any created by the sorceress Circe." Mary Doria Russell, author of Epitaph
  • "Madeline Miller's re-imagining of the witch Circe from The Odyssey makes for an intriguing, feminist adventure novel that is perfectly suited for the #TimesUp moment. Circe is also a smart read that has much to say about the long-term consequences of war and a culture that values violence and conquest over compassion and learning...Miller mines intriguing details from the original tale to imagine a rich backstory for Circe that allows readers to re-visit the world of Olympians and Titans in Greek mythology. From the court of the Titans, the reader meets Circe's parents, the god Helios and nymph Perse, and is introduced to a world of supernatural power players that is every bit as back-biting, gossip-filled and vicious as any episode of House of Cards ." May-Lee Chai, Dallas News
  • "'Circe' is a sentence-by-sentence miracle"; Michigan Daily

You May Also Like

House of Odysseus

Newsletter Signup

Author Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller

About the author.

Learn more about this author

  • United States

New York City

  • Columbus Circle

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle, New York, NY

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle

  • Neighborhood gem

Make a reservation

Order delivery or takeout, dining areas.

  • Main Dining

Additional information

  • Dining style Casual Dining
  • Price $50 and over
  • Cuisines Sushi, Grill, Japanese
  • Hours of operation Daily 7:00 am–11:00 am Mon–Thu, Sun 12:00 pm–11:00 pm Fri, Sat 12:00 pm–12:00 am
  • Phone number (212) 397-0404
  • Website
  • Payment options AMEX, Discover, Mastercard, Visa
  • Dress code Casual Dress
  • Executive chef Bruce and Eric Bromberg
  • Location 6 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019-1107
  • Neighborhood Columbus Circle
  • Cross street 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues (inside the 6 Columbus Hotel lobby)
  • Parking details None
  • Public transit Columbus Circle (1, A, B, C, D)
  • Additional Beer, Cocktails, Corkage Fee, Delivery, Full Bar, Gender Neutral Restroom, Non-Smoking, Takeout, Wheelchair Access, Wine

Popular dishes

Oxtail fried rice.

Daikon shiitake & bone marrow

Grilled ½ Chicken

Bok choi roast potato & teriyaki sauce

What 591 people are saying

Overall ratings and reviews.

Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant

  • 4.7 Service
  • 4.6 Ambience

Noise • Moderate

OpenTable Diner

Dined today

Is this helpful?

Dined 6 days ago

Dined on May 10, 2024

Dined on May 9, 2024

Dined on May 5, 2024

San Francisco

Dined on May 4, 2024


Dined on April 29, 2024

Does Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle offer delivery through OpenTable or takeout?

You can order delivery directly from Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle using the Order Online button. Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle also offers takeout which you can order by calling the restaurant at (212) 397-0404.

How is Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle restaurant rated?

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle is rated 4.8 stars by 591 OpenTable diners.

Is Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle currently accepting reservations?

Yes, you can generally book this restaurant by choosing the date, time and party size on OpenTable.

6 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019-1107

  • Dining Rewards
  • Private Dining
  • Reserve for Others
  • Restaurants Near Me
  • Delivery Near Me
  • OpenTable for iOS
  • OpenTable for Android
  • Affiliate Program
  • Restaurant reservation software
  • Industry insights
  • Hospitality resources
  • Marketing resources
  • Operation resources
  • How to open a restaurant
  • For restaurants
  • For restaurant groups
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Cookies and Interest-Based Ads
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Cookie Preferences


  1. {Review} Circe by Madeline Miller

    book review of circe

  2. Book Review of Circe by Madeline Miller (Spoiler Free)

    book review of circe

  3. Circe by Madeline Miller

    book review of circe

  4. Review of Circe by Madeline Miller

    book review of circe

  5. Why Circe Is the Best Coming of Age Novel

    book review of circe

  6. Book Review: “Circe” by Madeline Miller

    book review of circe


  1. Circe

  2. Circe by Madeline Miller

  3. Circe by Madeline Miller Chapter 9 (fanmade storyboard)

  4. The Rise Of A New Being Dokkaebi/OMNISCIENT READER Part 11

  5. Circle



  1. December's Book Club Pick: Turning Circe Into a Good Witch

    CIRCE By Madeline Miller 400 pp. Little, Brown & Company. $27.. I recall with intense pleasure my discovery in childhood of the Greek myths and Homer's "Iliad," in various editions, from an ...

  2. Book review: Circe, by Madeline Miller

    Review by Ron Charles. April 9, 2018 at 12:33 p.m. EDT. The archaeological evidence is sketchy, but the first pussy hat was probably knitted by Circe. Among nasty women, the witch of Aeaea has ...

  3. Circe by Madeline Miller

    Circe chronicles the life of a lesser god. She is the daughter of the mighty God Helios, the living embodiment of the sun. She is born without any particular talents or powers. She exists in the shadows of her more developed brothers and sisters. She does not shine in such spectacular company.

  4. CIRCE

    Circe's fascination with mortals becomes the book's marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside "the tonic of ordinary things.". A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast.

  5. 'Circe' Gives The Witch Of The Odyssey A New Life : NPR

    Book Reviews In 'ODY-C,' A Greek Hero Worthy Of Women Circe is a nymph, daughter of the sun god Helios, banished to the island of Aiaia for using magic to turn a romantic rival into the monster ...

  6. Recap, Summary + Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

    Book Review. Circe, by Madeline Miller, came out early last year, and I've been keen to find time for it, so it seemed like a good book to kick off the spring season. It's a re-telling the story of Circe, a character originated circa 8th century B.C. by Homer. In Homer's in The Odyssey, Odysseus encounters her on the island of Aeaea where ...

  7. Circe by Madeline Miller Review: Mythological Reimagining & Analysis

    17 Dec. Circe by Madeline Miller. "Circe" by Madeline Miller is a fascinating and beautifully written novel that reimagines the life of Circe, a minor goddess and enchantress in Greek mythology. Published in 2018, this book has captivated readers with its unique blend of mythological retelling and character-driven narrative.

  8. Circe by Madeline Miller review: a fresh take on ancient mythical tale

    Circe. Author: Madeline Miller. ISBN-13: 978-1408890080. Publisher: Bloomsbury. Guideline Price: £16.99. Circe doesn't take up much space in Homer's Odyssey - the visit to her island takes up ...

  9. Review of Circe by Madeline Miller

    Graceful and majestic in equal measures, Circe is sure to leave an indelible impression on readers both new and returning to Miller's singular reworkings of Greek myths. Reviewed by Dean Muscat. This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2018, and has been updated for the May 2020 edition.

  10. Circe by Madeline Miller: Summary and reviews

    With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world. NPR's Weekend Edition "Books To Look Forward To In 2018".

  11. Circe, Madeline Miller, review: Feminist rewrite of the Odyssey turns

    Circe, Madeline Miller, review: Feminist re-write of the Odyssey Following her bestselling, prize-winning re-imagining of the 'Iliad', Miller turns to Homer for inspiration once more

  12. Book Marks reviews of Circe by Madeline Miller Book Marks

    As with her previous novel, the great skill here is the way Miller gives voice to a previously muted perspective in the classics, forging a great romance from the scraps left to us by the ancients. If The Song of Achilles recovered a half-buried homosexual love story from the Iliad, Circe gives us a feminist slant on the Odyssey ...

  13. BOOK REVIEW: Circe by Madeline Miller

    Today I will review Circe by Madeline Miller. At a later date, I will also review The Song of Achilles, by the same author. Like all my reviews, this one too has spoilers. Circe by Madeline Miller was first published on April 10 th, 2018, and it has become a critically acclaimed novel since then, winning, for example, the 2018 Book of the Year ...

  14. Circe Book Review

    Parents need to know that Circe, by classical scholar and author Madeline Miller, first published in 2018, is a best-selling, imaginative, lurid and violent story of the legendary sorceress, written for an adult audience but also popular with teens. Poets have told of Circe's magic, power, lovers, and…. There aren't any parent reviews yet.

  15. Book Review: "Circe" by Madeline Miller

    As a result, Miller's book is rich with a self-creating vibrancy, a woven, viscous tapestry. It is shaped, like clay, from the effort of her own hands, just as Circe creates her own cosmic power, reaching into herself, into the earth, "elbow deep" at times to pull from the "divinity enfolded" in her skin. The book is Miller's own ...

  16. Circe

    read the series. preorder for $0.99. Circe by Madeline Miller book review. Circe is a captivating fantasy novel with a wonderful mix of gods, heroes, magic and mythology. It is a refreshing and unique take on Greek Mythology while maintaining the nostalgia of the classics.

  17. Circe: 9780316556347: Miller, Madeline: Books

    Circe. Hardcover - April 10, 2018. This #1 New York Times bestseller is a "bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story" that brilliantly reimagines the life of Circe, formidable sorceress of The Odyssey (Alexandra Alter, TheNew York Times). In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born.

  18. Circe (novel)

    Circe is a 2018 novel by American writer Madeline Miller.Set during the Greek Heroic Age, it is an adaptation of various Greek myths, most notably the Odyssey, as told from the perspective of the witch Circe.The novel explores Circe's origin story and narrates Circe's encounters with mythological figures such as Hermes, the Minotaur, Jason, and Medea, and ultimately her romance with Odysseus ...

  19. Circe by Madeline Miller

    My Rating of Circe: 4.7/5. Circe Book Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction. Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019, Circe by Madeline Miller narrates the alienation, power, and hankering of the Greek goddess, Circe, caught between gods and mortals. Besides being a novel based on ancient Greek mythology, Circe is an amazing story of ...

  20. CIRCE eBook : Miller, Madeline: Books

    Madeline Miller is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of two novels: The Song of Achilles, which won the Orange Women's Prize for Fiction 2012, and Circe, which was short-listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019. Her books have been translated into over thirty two languages. Miller holds an MA in Classics from Brown University, studied in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School ...

  21. Circe by Madeline Miller

    This #1 New York Times bestseller is a "bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story" that brilliantly reimagines the life of Circe, formidable sorceress of The Odyssey (Alexandra Alter, TheNew York Times). In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child — not ...

  22. Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

    You can order delivery directly from Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle using the Order Online button. Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill - Columbus Circle also offers takeout which you can order by calling the restaurant at (212) 397-0404.