This is the story of little-known Greek goddess and witch, Circe, told from her perspective: it reads like such an honest portrayal of a woman fighting for her place in a male-dominated society that it completely engrossed me. A truly beautiful and sometimes brutal read, steeped in well-known stories of Greek mythology, which lends a familiarity to the narrative, but imbued with a fresh interpretation grounded in a feminist approach.
Circe is the daughter of the Titan sun god, Helios and the nymph Perse. Feeling worthless and powerless amongst the gods, she feels drawn to mortals who are to become an important part of her life and her knowledge of self. Caught up in the politics of the Titans and Olympians, Circe is made a scapegoat for seeking her powers openly as a witch, and for standing up to her brutal father. She is exiled to the island of Aiaia for all eternity as a punishment. Knowing that she is alone forever, after having sought and been rejected in love, could have made her give up, but Circe decided to fight back …
I will not be like a bird bred in a cage … too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.
Circe attunes herself to her witchcraft, growing in strength and power, with two of her greatest abilities being in illusion and transformation, both of which she will need to protect herself, and the people she comes to care for. Although she is sent to the island to be isolated from others, this is not to be the sum of her existence.
Circe plays a role in many of the major Greek myths and gains the attention of both Gods and heroes. Engaging with these well-known myths, from Circe’s viewpoint, was genuinely fascinating and gave me a fresh insight into, and more awareness of, many of the gods and hero myths, especially that of Odysseus.
Circe is a complicated character who at times I raged at, and at others, I raged with. She may be an immortal god, but she exhibits a broad spectrum of human emotions throughout her many centuries: jealousy, love, rage, revenge, loneliness, courage, compassion, grief to name but a few. What really resonates with me is the sheer depth of her strength and tenacity, her ability to endure, to fight, to build relationships, to live a life not confined to the dictates of others.
I will do as I please, and when you count your children, leave me out!
Circe’s story is epic in scope and a beautifully written deep exploration of one woman’s fight for her place in a patriarchal world, forced to endure, determined to fight and prepared to dream.