Inspired. Lyrical. Erudite. Fun.
by Madeline Miller (kindle version)
read by Perdita Weeks (audible version)
Ihave both Madeline Miller’s Kindle version and the astonishing companion audible book, narrated by Perdita Weeks.
In truth, you will want both. I followed along in the Kindle as I listened. I frequently stopped the narration to luxuriate in one of Miller’s translucent passages, reading it over and over again to myself.
Miller’s writing and descriptions flow like a stream across waterfall rocks, burbling and splashing and happy. It is bejeweled writing.
It is also bewitching writing, as befits golden-eyed Circe, herself a witch. (We also learn that “circe” is Greek for hawk).
And no one brings that writing to spoken life as Perdita Weeks does.
Week’s quiet, whispery voice; her inflections; her thrilling cadences complement Miller’s writing in ways that are difficult to explain. (You’ll also appreciate Weeks’ pronunciation of myriad ancient Greek names and places).
Miller (read her bio) has nested in an unexplored niche of the Homeric poems. She exploits those little “throw away” scenes and places in the stories and asks, “but why? What else happened here?” Women, who usually get short shrift by Homer, are fully formed and fleshed in Miller’s reimagining.
Song of Achilles was Miller’s first foray, filling in the backstories of Achilles and Patrocles, rounding out the tales where Homer left gaping voids. But except for the slave girl Briseis, there are few women in the Illiad for Miller to work her magic with.
In Circe, however, Miller takes a minor encounter between Circe and the homeward bound Odysseus (minor, at least compared to the 7 year detour he had later with Calypso) and, using her detailed knowledge of ancient mythology and her education in the Greek and Latin languages, constructs compelling backstories for all the major players, especially the women.
In the end, Miller recasts the characters in a new, more human light. Certainly with a more feminist slant. Both Penelope, Odysseus’ long suffering wife, and his son Telemachus, surprised and delighted me.
It is not necessary for the reader to have read either the Illiad or the Odyssey in order to throughly enjoy Circe. Miller sees to that.
I highly recommend both Miller’s book and Week’s audio version as companion pieces. One without the other is cheating yourself of a truly memorable and fun reading experience.