What It Means to Be Alive



By: Madeline Miller

Grade: A

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

Part of me wants to talk in-depth about Circe and another part of me, a very large part, wants to be like, “Yes! It was great! Fantastic! Just read it…”

So I shall do a little of both.

Madeline Miller writes whats basically a biography of Circe- the first witch. I knew very little about even her myth save for what was in the Odyssey so most everything was new to me. Circe is the offspring of one of the Titans. She’s lonely and awkward in her father’s court drawn towards mortals and away from her psycho siblings in a fit of jealousy she works a bit of (what she doesn’t even recognize as) magic and winds up banished by Zeus  for all eternity trapped on an island.

One of the things I enjoyed even during slow parts was the cameo appearances of all the myths and legends of Greek mythology. Odysseus definitely remains the most important though in ways I didn’t expect. Cool appearance by a famous mortal loving Titan and a bunch of others I was literally like, “Oh! It’s you!”

Totally fun to fan cast the parts! This should really, really be a movie!

Circe herself is a great character. An immortal Goddess who doesn’t fit in and then is cast out on her own. She’s fully realized. At times she’s stupid and selfish and other times selfless and wise. She does some seriously questionable things and comes to regret them even attempts to own up to them. She’s abused by her family as well as sailors. She treats people with suspicion but ultimately also tries to reach them with kindness.

There’s also a thread throughout of Circe’s distaste with the Gods and their quest for power and destruction of lives that get in their way. Again without wanting to give anything away I thought that and what Circe comes to realize was very moving and beautifully written. I’m always interested when a God (or any character really) questions the gift of immortality and what it means to really live as I think it’s such an important message.

The ending definitely went in ways I didn’t expect but brought it full circle. I liked the emphasis on female friendship and people surprising you.

If I’m being picky I will say I wanted more of certain things and certain areas and people to be explored in more depth. But that’s just how much I enjoyed the story and the characters. You want more!

If I’m not being picky I will say it’s crazy that we can’t even read a novel about a powerful witch/Goddess without a rape scene perpetrated on her. I think Miller deals with it well and it does explain some of Circe’s later options but I do wonder if it was necessary if she couldn’t have gotten control before then.

Regardless of my feelings on that Circe was one of my most anticipated of the year and certainly lived up to my expectations. It’s also a very quick, engrossing and cinematic read.

Recommend: Obviously yes! I will definitely be picking up Miller’s Song of Achilles novel in the future.


20 thoughts on “What It Means to Be Alive

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  1. I don’t know much about Circe and I haven’t read The Odyssey yet but I’m looking forward to reading it. I haven’t read Song of Achilles either. Great review!

  2. This sounds really interesting! I will definitely be giving this a try. You have a really cool blog coming up here and I have made sure to follow to read more!

  3. I’m so excited to start Madeline Miller’s books! I love mythology as well so Circe seems right up my alley!

    1. I hope you like it! If your into myths I think you’ll enjoy all the cameo appearances 🙂 For a woman trapped on an island she didn’t lack in that regard!

  4. It’s on my TBR and it might have just been moved up a few places after reading your review. 😊
    Glad to hear your enjoyed it.

  5. I don’t know if you have read Achilles yet… but you have to! I will be reading this one next months, and I bet I will like it as much as you did and I just read that this book makes people cry and I cry like a baby with the other one! I have been waiting to get this book and I am so excited! thank you very much for your review!

      1. I don’t know what Scribd is… and do you mean Audible? 🙂 or what Amazon credits :O (I am googling Scribd at this very moment XD)

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