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    Book Review

    Circe: In Among the Myths and Legends

    Stories are multifaceted tools that are used to provide a whole host of experiences. Some stories stimulate, others caution. Some make you wonder, some make you wander, and some simply stop you from doing anything, overwhelming in their sheer presence. Circe by Madeline Miller is all that and more.

    Just pretend the other cover art doesn't exist

    As you can imagine, this is a novel about the eponymous character herself. Miller begins the journey with Circe's birth and the circumstances and history surrounding it. From that point on, the story is all about Circe's growth. Through the centuries that she lives as an immortal, through all the years that she experiences, Circe is never static. Every encounter explores a facet of her personality that complements another. Every reflection builds on the previous, sharpens one, and smooths another. By the end of it all, Circe is the only amalgamation of everything she has gone through that would ever make sense, and her final resolution is spot on. But though the focus is on Circe, her life explores the entire spectrum of humanity. In the cruel world of mythical Greece, most lives can be summarized to prioritizing themselves as individuals and no further beyond that, yet the beacons of kindness and generosity that come in her life stand out all the brighter because of it.

    One of the things I appreciated most was Miller's take on the myths surrounding Circe. The world of the Greek myths is rich with drama, and Miller shows them even more richly, painting the dry stories with a vivid coat of personality and emotion. Remember the stories of Daedalus and the Minotaur? Jason and the Argonauts? Odysseus on his great journey in the Odyssey? Scour the internet or look up any textbook of Greek myths and you will find all these legends and more attributed to the mythical witch, all of which Miller weaves into her novel, giving them the full breadth of character that those dispassionate accounts lack. How did she end up on her lonely island? Why did she turn men into pigs? Miller doesn't ignore any of them. However problematic, every issue is properly explored and given its due place.

    An important thing to note: the story is biographical. There is no overarching plot connecting the first and last page. Though there are moments of action, adventure, and even breathless suspense, these are never the focus. It is a tale of how Circe is shaped by the world around her, and how she tries to shape it back in turn. Miller's prose perfectly captures the mystique and wonder of the olden days when gods walked the earth and heroes fought monsters for glory and honour, yet does an incredible job of grounding them all in Circe's point of view.

    Overall, I found the story a breath of fresh air. It isn't without its faults. Complaints such as Circe being too passive, the latter quarter of the story being far too slow, and the lack of a cohesive plot are all valid. Those faults, however, don't take away too much from the experience. In the end, this is a story of compassion and love, of finding your place in the world and realizing that it's up to you to decide where you belong. In the end, Circe is more than story. It is the tale of a lonely life that nevertheless finds great happiness.