There has been a lot of buzz about this book (Bloomsbury, 2018). Circe, witch-goddess of Greek myth, is an intriguing character to base a novel upon. I think it’s a real achievement and at over 400 pages, definitely has that epic quality. However, I found my attention sliding at halfway through because I couldn’t see where the plot was going. Once she’s on her island, in exile, the momentum just drops and is slow to pick up again.
What I did admire about the book was the powerful use of language, the descriptions of what it’s like to be immortal and the interplay of gods with humans. It’s also about strong women: Circe the witch and single mother, her manipulative sister Pasiphae (who gives birth to the Minotaur), Scylla (a love rival who is turned into a ravenous sea monster by Circe) and mortal Penelope (wife of Odysseus, she takes Circe’s place as witch on the island). So the story really gives women of the Greek myths a voice. You could say it shows their human side.
I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this book. Although I liked the choice of words and the well-researched details, the sentence structure is a little dull, for those who notice that kind of thing. I suppose the author is consciously emulating the style of ancient texts, but that’s what makes me lose interest; for me, narrative style is more important than anything else in a book. I also prefer books with a bit of humour in them, and this one has precisely none. I don’t regret reading Circe, but I won’t be reading The Song of Achilles.