Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts

Monday, April 2, 2018

Circe by Madeline Miller

*Circe will be published Tuesday, April 10th!*

Circe by Madeline Miller. Little, Brown and Company, 2018. Hardcover. 400 pages.

It might only be April, but Circe has already fixed itself a place as one of my favorite books of 2018. I actually read Circe back in January, but my feelings for this book have remained strong and I still love this book as much as I did when I first read it. I wrote most of this review back in January when the book was still fresh, but I've been adding to it since then and I find that there is always more that I want to say about it.

I've always been interested in Circe as a mythological figure, but there's surprisingly/relatively little in the world of fiction focused solely on Circe and her own story. Miller's story is a retelling that I didn't realize how much or how desperately I needed it, and I just desperately want to tell everyone to read it.

Crice reads sort of like a literary historical fantasy. Miller's prose is stunning and reads almost like a song. I have heard endless people praise her previous book, The Song of Achilles (which I still have yet to read)for ages, and now, reading Circe, I can understand why. There is something exceptionally magical and effortless about the way in which Miller narrates this story, and I imagine all of her writing is a gorgeous as it was in this book. Every word she writes is both subtle and powerful at the same time, which makes this book one that is hard to put down and even harder to get out of your head.

I think what I loved the most about this story was how Miller stuck so faithfully to the major plot points and events that occur in the myths of Circe's life. She doesn't make any extensive changes or alter her entire life; instead, Miller merely fleshes out these stories and adds much ore context and life to them. Circe became incredibly relatable and someone whose life I truly became invested in. In addition, Miller included all of the characters that Circe interacts with in the many previous stories about her, including Odysseus, her sister (Pasiphaƫ), her brother (Perses), Penelope, and so many more characters that contribute so much depth and intrigue to this story. Despite the impact that many of these character's have on Circe's life -- both positive and negative--the story never fails to focus solely on Circe and center in on her turbulent life.

The Circe that Miller has created for this book is a remarkable woman, flawed but also remarkably wise and able to adapt to whatever world she is in. My favorite aspect of Circe was her continuous development as a person. In particular, I loved watching how she grew up as a child who never quite fit in or received the respect she desired and became bitter and angry as a result, and how slowly but surely she developed a keen knowledge that guided her throughout her life. Circe has many weaknesses, but she develops many strengths in response to these while also learning how to work with her anger rather than against it and use it for better purposes. I felt so connected to Circe's character, more so than I have to any character in a while. I think I also read Circe at a wonderful point in my life (or not so wonderful, depending on how you look at it) because I was personally experiencing many of the same  feelings, revelations, despair that Circe experienced, and I feel she helped me discover how to make it on my own journey. I felt as if I grew myself, and I felt incredibly empowered by this book. I think any woman that reads this book will be able to walk away from it with their own sense of empowerment, in whatever form it may take, and I also think that any person could find something in this book to take away with them.

As beautiful as this book is, it isn't a particularly nice book. There is death, anger, violence, despair, loss, heartbreak, love--there's everything you do and do not want in your life, but there is plenty more negative than there is positive. This is a book that doesn't necessarily make you feel happy, but it leaves you pondering Circe's life and how things happen in one's life, whether they want it to or not.

In addition to the lives of the characters, Circe also contains some beautiful settings and descriptions of the world in which Circe lives. I was so caught up in the descriptions of the island on which she lives, of the large ocean and the deadly monster that lives there, of the palace that she grew up on, and so many more places. This book will absolutely transport you to mythological Ancient Greece.

Overall, I've given Circe  five stars and I can't recommend it enough!

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

*I received an ARC of Circe in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
W. W. Norton & Company
Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.
Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.
Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I've been incredibly excited for this release ever since I Neil Gaiman revealed the information on his Twitter, and it just occurred to me that I hadn't shared it as a Waiting on Wednesday post! I had to rectify this, so here it is! Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and he is such a masterful storyteller that I feel he will do a wonderful job retelling the vibrant world of Norse mythology. I am also planning to take a Norse mythology seminar next quarter, so this release will just happen to coincide perfectly with that... 

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Helen of Troy by Margaret George

Helen of Troy by Margaret George. Penguin Books; 2007. 638 pages. Paperback/Softcover.

This massive tome by Margaret George tells the story of Helen of Troy, the woman whose "face launched a thousand ship." Married to Menelaus, she becomes queen of Sparta and endures a marriage lacking passion or desire. The gods, however (specifically Aphrodite), have other plans for Helen, and she becomes enamored with Paris of Troy, eventually running away with him and igniting the the infamous Trojan War.

I really, really wanted to love this book. I so badly did. I'm a classics major, so this is basically what I live and breathe and am obsessed with. It was a wonderfully written, extremely interesting book to read, but, unfortunately, I had a big problem with the characters - specifically Helen and Paris. I completely understand where this story is coming from and why the characters act in the manner that they do, but I became so annoyed with them at various times throughout the novel. At points, I really just wanted to grab and shake them while telling them to stop complaining - you brought this on yourself, so now live with your consequences. They knew this would happen (damn Greeks always trying to ignore and hide from prophecy when we all know it comes true every. single. time) I was also disappointed with the fact that Helen and Paris' affair never really moved me. I didn't feel caught up in their deep, passionate love; in fact, I almost didn't care. I almot wished Helen had just stayed at home in Sparta. I could obviously see how passionate they were, but I didn't really become a part of it like I had hoped I would. I never really enjoyed or liked Paris' character; he was rather bland and one dimensional. This also moves into the fact that while the story itself was supposed to be extremely emotional and heart-wrenching, it was actually rather emotionless. While the dialogue relating to war and politics sounded very accurate and real, the dialogue concerning emotions, such as between Paris and Helen, was lacking any real meaning, and again, made it hard to care or become invested in their story.

That little rant aside, it was a actually lovely book otherwise. I know, I probably sound contradictory. But honestly, it was beautifully written. The other characters were depicted wonderfully and I truly enjoyed them. The writing was seamless and poetic; it almost begs you to read it slowly in order to fully appreciate the beauty that can be found.

This is definitely a dense book, and it took me a bit longer to get through than other books of this side. There is a lot of information about the characters, politics, war, etc., and it can be a bit heavy and dull at times. I really appreciate the obvious amount of research and effort George went to in order to create an as-accurate-as-possible account of Helen and her involvement with the Trojan War, as it was by far one of the better retellings of Greek mythology that I have read. If she had taken that research and developed a slightly more emotional story, it would have made a much more intriguing novel.

Overall, I'm giving Helen of Troy three-and-a-half stars. I had a really hard time deciding between three and four, so I decided half works well. The story was written beautifully, but the characters lacked depth, and that was a pretty big problem for me, personally.

Books similar to Helen of Troy:

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
Both novels share a vibrant and elaborate storyline set in a richly described setting. The Creation of Eve centers on a female Renaissance Painter, Sofonisba Anguissola, as she becomes a painting teacher to Queen Elisabeth, wife of King Felipe II of Spain.

Much like Helen of Troy, Abundance focuses on a first person female narrative that is full of lyrical, poetic descriptions. Abundance follows the life of Marie Antoinette from her marriage to the Dauphin Louis XVI of France to her death in 1793.

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