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Publisher's Summary

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019

From the Orange Prize-winning, internationally best-selling author of The Song of Achilles comes the powerful story of the mythological witch Circe, inspired by Homer's Odyssey

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft. 

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe's place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home. 

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe's independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from or the mortals she has come to love. 

Breathing life into the ancient world, Madeline Miller weaves an intoxicating tale of gods and heroes, magic and monsters, survival and transformation.   

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2018 Madeline Miller (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

What listeners say about Circe

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Magical yet so real!

I can not emphasize enough on how much I loved this book and I am so glad that I got to listen to it. Madeline Miller has created an exceptional retelling of the story of Circe, the witch of Ayaya and Perdita Weeks breathed life into the narrative. Every single chapter bound me to its story and the concise, exactly on the point modulation of the narration transformed my living room into that island so beautifully described.

I was most excited about Circe's meeting with Odysseus that Homer wrote about in Oddessey. Not only did I get that story, the event was retold in a way that did not define the story of the goddess, it effortlessly enhanced Circe's might and character.
Circe was powerful and though there were so many events involving all powerful gods and mortals, the story never wavers from her. She is the one who drives the narrative and at no point what so ever did I feel her character lost in the story.

This is a story of the making of a powerful woman, a goddess, and extremely engaging.

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Recommended for mythology lovers

I really enjoyed some parts of this story and though the narrator did an awesome job.

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Beautiful narration

An amazing book. The narration is perfectly suited to the book’s tone and I think the best that I’ve heard. Perdita Weeks did a beautiful job.

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Best narration I've heard in a while

Circe is one of the many children of Helios, god of the sun. She is misunderstood and bullied for most of her life. This coming of age story lets you climb right into the life of Circe, and feel her every emotion. I absolutely loved the narration of this book. Perdita Weeks is effortless in her telling and she really made the book soar. Without her unpretentious narration, I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed this story as much as I did.
I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who enjoys Greek mythology as well as character-driven novels.

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Absolutely recommend.

A forgotten character brought to life in the most nuanced, delicious way. A little slow during certain sections, but that helps tell a story that asks you to look at the big picture. With cameos from Hermes to Helen, there will be several moments of confusion, surprise and splendor.

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THE BEST AUDIO BOOK OF THE YEAR!

If there's any audiobook that is better mention it. I'll wait right here.
Oh Circe!
I strongly advise that you buy this book, it is worth it.

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Excellent story + narration

This is my second Madeline Miller book and it is in every way just as brilliant as her Archilles books. A sweeping, multiple-life long story of gods and mortals and those that walk the line between. Written touchingly and powerfully and so evocative. I’m a huge fan of Madeline’s writing style and Perdita Weeks’ excellent narration. Her skills and bringing the characters to life and giving each character a unique tone and style made for a truly vivid listen.

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I WANT TO START FROM THE BEGINNING AGAIN

I loved this book, written with wisdom, insight and a easy grip on the muddled world of Greek gods
I am eager now to explore Madeline Miller's other books or start this one again. Thank you for writing books like this, it makes us mortals very happy ))

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The story of a God who learned to live as a human

Circe is not a human or a hero but she is no less magnificent as the greatest or as vulnerable as the lowest.

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Silk for the ears and soul

I can’t tell you how much I loved listening to this book. The stories of gods and titans interwoven with a simple tale of a woman finding her way through life and love. Beautifully written ... and the reader (Perdita Weeks), her voice is like silk. I was at a loss when the story ended. Thank you Madeliene Miller for releasing this gem into our world.

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  • madeleine davitt
  • 05-06-18

Brilliant

This is the first audio book I have bought. I thought the book was one of the best books I have read and listened too in years. It’s stunningly beautiful and outstanding in terms of the theme and tread of the story. It rates for me as the best book I have read in years. I will without doubt buy her other books. It was also beautifully read the reader was captivating. I would read and listen to this book again and again to remind me of what a good author can do. Thank you

75 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs. S. Shayle
  • 04-26-18

Outstanding

I wondered if this would be as good as Song of Achilles. In a word yes it is. It has quite a slow start where you can get lost in all the different gods and their petty vengeances. However once Circe is exiled to her island it becomes more profound and Millers descriptive powers are highly evocative. Better to listen than read.

60 people found this helpful

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  • Kathryn
  • 10-03-18

Bingeworthy

Couldn’t stop listening! Only to sleep and even then I didn’t want to, such a beautiful book

20 people found this helpful

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  • Sofie
  • 01-19-19

A unique retelling of Greek myths

Circe by Madeline Miller is an interesting, unique tale based on the Greek myths. Miller has taken a character and made their story her own. I felt that this was a very original story, but that at times I was not completely gripped. It was a solid 3* listen on Audible. Circe by Madeline Miller is out now from Hachette Audio.

The story
Circe is a Greek goddess and daughter of the Titan, Helios, who causes trouble and gets banished to live on the island of Aiaia by herself for eternity. However, humans do as they please, and when their boats start washing up on the shores of Aiaia, Circe will learn what it means to be human, to be a man and to be a woman. With other gods passing through, changing both their fates and hers, Circe will have to protect herself and the things she holds dear if she wants to live independently.

My thoughts on Circe…
Circe by Madeline Miller is essentially clever and well-written, with many anecdotes about various Greek gods and goddesses, nymphs and witches alike. I enjoyed the way Miller has woven the stories together and ensured that this novel feels like a real Greek myth, as the reader is faced with mounds of intertextuality and broken stories glued together. I particularly enjoyed the anecdote of Circe’s sister and the birth of her child/monster, which shows Miller’s strengths as an author. Unlike Stephen Fry, Miller ensures that Circe is involved in every story, whether she is hearing and commenting on things, or she travels somewhere and witnesses various extra things as she goes.

However, I will say that the story as a whole felt a bit long, as I was not completely gripped by all of the anecdotes and woven in stories as I was the main one. I got very into this audiobook when Circe would lure the men to her island, and I particularly enjoyed Miller’s sense of character that came apparent through this story line. Circe herself is an independent and fierce woman, but fell a little bit short as I felt that she came across a bit entitled at the beginning and never truly understood how to let go of the things she cares about, at least not without something new to distract her.

Overall, Circe by Madeline Miller was an enjoyable read for me. I would recommend it to people who enjoy Greek myths, but without as much graphic content as in Fry’s Mythos. This story does fall more into the young adult range, which makes it accessible for a wide range of audiences who will love it. I enjoyed listening to this book on Audible, and would encourage other fans of Greek mythology and adventure tales to read or listen to this title.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Beatleclaire
  • 09-25-18

Excellent

Starts well and maintains it momentum. Very well read by Perdita. I would recommend this book.

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  • Rusty
  • 05-26-21

Unimaginative Retelling

I struggled to finish this book. Like Hercules with the Nemean lion it felt like an endurance battle. After completing my labour I was left feeling thoroughly disappointed, especially after seeing all the praise heaped upon it like so many pathetic offerings. I'm a big fan of Greek myths so a critically acclaimed retelling of one of the greatest of all myths, the Odyssey, seemed right up my street. I should have looked at what those critics where saying. Words like empowering, feminist and unbelievably, MeToo, crop up a lot. Oh dear, it's one of those I thought. Not a story that needed telling, but a mission statement.

The empowering feminist in question is Circe. What's that, you don't remember who she is? Well, you're part of the problem and the reason we need books like this, but I'll help you out this once. Circe is a witch and a Goddess, but not the razor using, mortal kind. She appears in Homer's Odyssey and turns Odysseus's men into pigs. Men are pigs. Feminist, you see. What a twist!

Circe's an immortal, but she's not just any immortal; she's an independent, empowering one. This empowerment doesn't really happen until we're a good 15 chapters in and when it does arrive it's heavily telegraphed, and feels wrong somehow. It also comes across as more like revenge, than justice. Then it's doubled down on and I've lost most of my sympathy for Circe. Not that I had much to begin with as like all the gods in this book, (and most of the humans), Circe is a pretty unpleasant character. She's arrogant, selfish and cruel, but unlike the other gods, the author has gifted Circe with a spark of humanity and the milk of human kindness. There's no explanation given for this unique personality, or for her cleverness and resolve. She definitely didn't get it from her parents, the God Helios and a nymph, who are neither clever nor kind.

But hey, she's the pov and so she has to do things that the other gods won't do, because that's all empowering and feminist, even if we have to tear down all the other characters. The biggest example of this is Odysseus, who comes in for some proper character assassination. He's too dead to defend himself at the point where things get really personal, so who cares, right? I've heard Miller talk about getting across Odysseus' PTSD, but I don't see it. He comes across as a vain and brutal villain in the end, not someone worthy of sympathy.

I'm rambling because I don't want to focus on the threadbare plot, which I can sum up with bullet points. Notice all the beats it has to hit to fit the myths.

- Circe turns a nymph into a monster and is banished to Aeaea for the act.

- Circe meets the Minotaur.

- A bad thing happens to Circe.

- Circe turns men into pigs.

- Circe meets Odysseus. Odysseus leaves.

- Circe's son by Odysseus grows up, leaves the island, kills Odysseus.

- Circe lifts her banishment, leaves the island and deals with the monster.

That might look like a lot, but bear in mind that Odysseus only turns up for two of the thirty odd chapters. A single chapter is spent on the Minotaur. This would still be fine if the events on Circe's island were interesting, or if her character was likeable and had some depth. Unfortunately that's not the case for either trait. We know all there is to know about Circe in the space of a couple of chapters. Other characters are just there sometimes and they don't leave much of an impression either.

Most of the book is domestic tedium and repetitive internal monologuing. Circe thinks the following things* often, for the first 15 chapters.

"Nymphs are helpless. Victims of the Gods and men"**

And..

"My father/brother/uncle/Olympian will rescue me".

These thoughts occur so regularly that when the abuse happens, you're fully expecting it. That it comes soon after Hermes makes an off colour joke and is "banished" by an angry Circe, is almost comical. Just to hammer the message home even further, during and just after, Circe inwardly and outwardly cries for help. She gets none, as usual, and so takes matters into her own hands. It's her Let it Go™ moment. That's EMPOWERING because she can do magic like real women can't and she don't need no man. That she sleeps with some and punishes others is also feminist I guess.

Speaking of Hermes, he pops by for a visit so that we can tick his appearance box and so that Circe (and we the reader) has some connection to the outside world. You see, the problem with trapping us on an island*** devoid of other people is that nothing much can happen there. The situation is summed up nicely after Hermes is sent on his smiling way, when Circe remarks that she had, in his eyes, "Committed the unpardonable sin of being dull". That right there, says it all.

Occasionally other Greek myths drop in to say hello, or Circe goes to visit them, and these are the highlights of a very boring book.

The reason this isn't rated any lower is down to the quality of the prose. It's really very nice, just about getting me through to the end of the book all on its own. Madeline Miller can certainly write beautifully, I'm just not sure she can tell a good story. There are a few moments of wonder though. I particularly liked Circe's journey to the depths of the ocean. Here the evocative writing shines and paints a picture of that inky blackness, and the vast, ancient deity lurking in the gloom. It's an example of the author doing something interesting and new with this retelling****. Unfortunately, rare moments like this highlight how little else happens in the book.

Madeline Miller has been quoted as saying that she wanted to "push back against Homer". The problem with that statement is that you're pushing back against The Iliad and The Odyssey, two cultural leviathans. They are as timeless as Achilles for a reason; the stories speak to people. They thrill, horrify and entertain to this day. You better be damn sure your story is up to scratch if you're criticising, whilst taking***** liberally from the fire of the literary gods. A character study of a less prominent figure could work, but here it doesn't. That's in large part because of the character herself, and the storytelling. A Greek epic this isn't.

Removing the odyssey from The Odyssey it turns out, is a bad idea, especially if you have nothing to replace it with. I can't recommend this to anyone, unless buzzwords are more important to you than substance. It's a poor introduction to Greek myths, there's so much better out there, including female centric stuff. Hades, I'd take a well written Wikipedia entry over this book, it's really that forgettable.

To sum up; imagine a more cynical Lord of the Rings told entirely from the perspective of Galadriel. A powerful "witch" trapped in a forest, far away from anything exciting. Then at the end make Sam gay. No one wants that. Do they?

4.5/10

Audiobook: There is a lack of variety in the narrator's voices, which can be confusing, but her voice is perfect for the role of Circe and she acts it well. The recording itself is badly edited, with the pacing being especially bad. Occasionally the audio seems like it's been sped up or cut abruptly, although some of this could be down to the voice actress.

* Another thought that often enters Circe's head is "mortals age and die". This particular point doesn't go anywhere until the very end of the novel. It's as unsatisfying and predictable as everything else.

** Maybe Madeline Miller seems to have a particular gripe with the story of Apollo and Daphne. Can't wait for the retelling entirely from Daphne's pov. 200 pages of her just being a tree.

*** The first third of the book takes place prior to the banishment, but it's only a couple of locations and we're mostly trapped in Circe's head.

**** Sadly, it's also another of those look what this woman is willing to do for her child, moments. No one else is this brave/selfless etc. Build her up some more.

***** Sorry, retelling.

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  • Bookworm
  • 10-31-18

Fantastic book

I’ve listened to this book about 8 times now its seems to be addictive. Perdita Weeks performance is amazing and I think partly why this book is so easy to listen to. I dont know anyone who would t like this book. I loved it and probably will listen to if for a 9th time

16 people found this helpful

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  • mickjigger
  • 05-22-20

Brilliant book

Totally loved this book. Perdita Weeks reads the story absolutely brilliantly.
The rich descriptive language is amazing, the plot full of twists and turns in the world of gods and mortals. My 12 year old daughter got into it too because of narration, language and story.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Ca
  • 01-09-20

magical xxxx

this story is the best listen I've ever had the pleasure to find ... the authors writing ... the narrators voice ... everything (in my opinion) was perfect ... left me wanting so much more from this author ... transported me away to another time another place and I didn't want to leave x

4 people found this helpful

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  • Richard
  • 07-31-18

Lacking main story thread

Enjoyed the book from a mythology point of view, but felt the book lacked a strong story line. Circe never really did anything particularly exciting...

13 people found this helpful

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  • bookreviewer
  • 09-06-18

Pure Magic

Wonderful weaving of myth from a relatable female voice recounting the superhuman stories through a very human wisdom. I did already know quite a bit of greek mythology but Miller's storytelling is so skilful that I believe if you knew nothing of myth the story and characters would be as alive and would pass on the mythological underpinnings along the way. Circe is a kick ass character and the story, being both contemporary and ancient, encompasses enduring human themes as well as contemporary social issues. I really enjoyed!!

10 people found this helpful

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  • Helen Engstrom
  • 12-26-18

An absorbing book beautifully read

Circe comes to life as she did not in Homer’s rendition of her. She is a sympathetic character who’s story is utterly compelling. The language of the book is poetic, the writing a constant delight. The reader is perfect for character and story.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Susan Hamilton
  • 11-05-18

Loved it

Loved it. Miller makes the old Greek tales relatable to the modern audience and revives what can sometimes be stuffy legends and myths in a beautiful way. Along with Circe's story we hear of the old Titans and their powers as well as heroes such as Achilles, Icarus and Odysseus as their lives touch each other. Beautifully written and well read.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Melissa Carter
  • 02-25-20

Slow start but overall good.

This was very slow to start and I thought I wasn't going to like it much. It did pick up and I started to like it when it got more into the witch side of things. The research is so well done with this book, all your favourite Greek Mythology heroes are included. It even linked back to Song of Achilles. I would love to see a book on Odysseus next.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs. K. Skarbek
  • 12-03-18

Wonderful Retelling of the Myths

Beautiful story, wonderfully read and engaging right up until the end.

If you love mythological stories or fairy tale re-imaginings, this book is for you. Better than The Song of Achilles (imho), rich in imagery and really, really entertaining.

Highly recommend.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Alma M
  • 11-06-18

Captivating and Well Written

Perdita Weeks has the most soothing and captivating voice! Story was excellent and incredibly interesting.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ginaya Chaston
  • 10-03-18

Fantastic storytelling!

Loved everything about this book and the storyline. Could listen to this narrator for hours!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Tori Hazelwood
  • 09-18-18

Absolutely loved it

Perfect story telling, love the accurate spin on greek mythology! would recomend! can't wait to read it again xD

3 people found this helpful

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  • paula king
  • 09-02-18

engrossing story, brilliant narration

recommended to me by Ali Edwards as one of her recent reviews & I'm not disappointed. Easy to get lost in the lyrical narration & story. A different view on the Ancient World.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Josephine Kelman
  • 09-15-18

Delightful tale

Loved this book for its sweet retelling and weaving of old myths and legends into a personal tale of a long life

2 people found this helpful