I woke up this morning thinking about how much I admire Madeline Miller. She spent the first decade of her career teaching Greek and Latin to high school students. While ushering adolescents through years of Greek instruction, she finished her first book, Song of Achilles. It took her ten years to write. Those of you who spend most of your waking hours with teenagers understand how impressive this is. In April, Miller released her second book, Circe.
I don't remember much about Greek mythology. I'm embarrassed about this for two reasons (1) my Dad was a Classics major and gave me SO MANY collections of myths when I was a kid (hope he doesn't read this post--sorry, Dad) and (2) most American students complete entire units on Greek mythology in high school (we did this in Hingham, but I barely recall our discussions of the "Odyssey" in Joan Silver's English class). Perhaps this is why I held off on reading Miller's new book for a few months: I wasn't sure if I would be able to fully appreciate her writing.
Even with my lack of knowledge re: Greek mythology, I loved this. If you remember the "Odyssey," you know that Circe is the badass witch who turns Odysseus' men to pigs when they trespass on the island of Aiaia (for what it's worth, Circe is also the first witch in Western literature!). As a child, Miller was fascinated with Circe's story because the Goddess seemed to be "the embodiment of male anxiety about female power." Miller was unsatisfied with knowing Circe only through the eyes of a male protagonist. In her new novel, Miller allows the Goddess to tell her own story (which spans thousands of years). Though Odysseus does appear in the novel, Circe's story does not center on her relationship with a man. If you have any free time in summer 2018, this is worth picking up.