Last summer I became aware that Madeline Miller’s new novel, Circe, a retelling of the Circe myth from the Odyssey, would be published this month. Netgalley, a site where reviewers and bloggers can request e-galleys, posted a picture of the beautiful cover, along with the tantalizing news that the book was not yet available for request.
It’s just as well that it was not available, since I was behind on Netgalley books. (The last one I read was Isabelle Allende’s In the Midst of Winter in October, and it may be October 2027 before I read the others.)
Last week I almost bought Circe, carried away by the excitement of reviews. Then I remembered something. I did not finish Madeline Miller’s first novel, The Song of Achilles.
I wrote in 2012:
Madeline Miller won the Orange Prize for her first novel, The Song of Achilles, a retelling of the story of Achilles and Patroclus. She is a classicist, a teacher and tutor of Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare to high school students.
So of course I like her, because I’ve never met a Latin teacher I didn’t like.
I haven’t read The Song of Achilles, but it’s on my Nook.
My guess is you’d be less critical of the book if your background is not in classics, but I gave up on page 130. I was put off by the clichés (“I watched him hang on the other man’s words”) and hackneyed pseudo-poetic dialogue (“Your honor could be darkened by it.” “It’s darkened.”)
Nonetheless, I am dying to read Circe. Will Miller’s second novel be the charm? And yet I’m saying NO to myself. I have a couple of retellings of the Odyssey to read first: Zachary Mason’s The Last Books of the Odyssey and Patrick Dillon’s Ithaka.
Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s Circe Mud/Poems.
I made no choice I decided nothing One day you simply appeared in your stupid boat, your killer's hands, your disjointed body, jagged as a shipwreck, skinny-ribbed, blue-eyed, scorched, thirsty, the usual, pretending to be-what? a survivor? Those who say they want nothing want everything. It was not this greed that offended me, it was the lies. Nevertheless I gave you the food you demanded for the journey you said you planned; but you planned no journey and we both knew it. You've forgotten that, you made the right decision. You're having a good time here, the trees bend in the wind, you eat, you rest, you think of nothing, your mind, you say, is like your hands, vacant: vacant is not innocent.