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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Circe (2018) by Madeline Miller


Book Review
Circe (2018)
by Madeline Miller
Published April 2018

   If you want to get idea about what American authors might be in line for the National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize in Literature this year, you could do worse than to look at the "related items" listing for Circe over at Amazon.com.  You've got Circe itself- which is  a best seller, critically acclaimed, published by a mainline US publisher, and from a genre (historical fiction) that has found favor in the past decade.  Related titles include Overstory by Richard Powers, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer and the Only Story by Julian Barnes- all new books by past literary prize winners.

  Miller herself seems poised to jump into that field with Circe, which you could argue is a companion piece to A Song of Achilles, in the same way that The Odyssey and The Iliad are related.  Specifically, A Song of Achilles covers the territory of The Iliad and Circe tackles the The Odyssey.   In Circe, Miller plugs into many au courant literary trends beyond re-telling a classic work of literature from a new perspective.  The mythological element adds a dash of fantasy/Harry Potter type appeal, her grasp of the psychology of Greek heroes imparts a piece of modern TMZ style celebrity culture.

   Circe as portrayed by Miller is of course, sympathetic. She finds herself exiled to a remote desert island as a scapegoat for a newly discovered power of witchcraft, among her and her siblings, the children of Helios, the titan/god of the Sun and her mother, an ambitious nymph.   On the island she has her famous encounter with Odysseus, which leaves her with child, and which sets the stage for the remainder of the narrative.

  There is nothing slow or boring about Circe- Miller keeps clipping along, and by the end I was left with the conviction that the best-seller status and critical acclaim was merited.  Towards the end, I found myself wondering who would be cast as Circe in what is sure to be a movie version.  Would Gal Gadot be too on the nose after Wonder Woman?

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