Circe by Madeline Miller

“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 419 pages.
Read from June 15, 2020 to June 17, 2020.

This book was on my library waiting list for such a long time but let me tell you, it was worth the wait. This book popped up on my radar on Goodreads and a few book sites I follow with raving reviews for its unique and accessible approach to some classic characters of Greek mythology. Madeline Miller holds an MA in Classics and teaches high school ages students Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare. A feat, that is is no easy task. I would not call Circe a young adult novel because it’s truly a piece of literature that is accessible to all ages.

Circe is the daughter of the titan, Helios. She is considered unremarkable in comparison to her family as she bares no talents, powers or abilities worthy of her heritage. Always under the watchful and wrathful eye of the gods, Circe finds herself interested in and drawn to mortals, and even falls in love with one. Her love allowed her to do something not even the Gods thought was possible as she turned her lover into a god. Circe soon learns that she is actually a sorceress with remarkable transformative abilities that are capable of feats that make even the gods uncomfortable. After a regretful transformation made out of jealousy, Zeus banishes Circe to a remote island near the mortal realm for eternity. On this island, Circe comes of age, as grows and hones her skill as a witch. She sees the unfairness of her sex and the treatment she endures as a result. She also comes to distance herself further from the gods as she cannot understand the lack of empathy the immortal and powerful gods have towards mortals. During her time on the island, she encounters some of the most famous figures mentioned in Greek mythology.  Unfortunately for Circe, a woman alone, especially one of power with disdain for the gods will not go unnoticed for long.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”

Circe is a story of choice, accountability, and empowerment. Circe starts a naive and passive woman who grows and comes into her own. She makes mistakes but owns them and stands for what she believes in against immeasurable odds. Circe’s struggle is relatable and it brings to life classic stories and characters from mythology whose original publications may feel unattainable or unenjoyable for the average reader. Circe also gives a different perspective on these characters as well as interesting interpretations for some of the things that each character did in the original Greek stories.

“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”

The writing is gorgeous and intelligent, showcasing Madeline Miller’s feats as an accomplished academic and storyteller. I’m thrilled that she has published other books meaning I have a chance to enjoy more of her thoughtful writing style and character work. I can 100% say, that this book is absolutely worth all the hype and accolades. If you enjoy historical fiction, mythology, fantasy, classics, or feminism I think you will absolutely devour this book.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.”

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 138 pages.
June 9, 2020 to June 11, 2020.

I was gifted a copy of this book from a friend who could passionately recite lines of the poetry composed inside of it. She spoke so eloquently that I was instantly hooked by the words and wanted to read this book for myself.

The author, Kahlil Gibran, was an American-Lebanese poet who is most known in the English-speaking world for this book and has become one of the best-selling poets of all time. Even though many of Gibran’s works were not originally written in English, this one included, his execution and skill lend itself wonderfully into English translation, giving the feeling that you are reading the story as it is meant to be read. The Prophet was published in 1923 and has since had more than 163 different editions in print.

The prophet Almustafa is about to leave the city of Orphalese where he has lived in exile for the last twelve years. Its people are saddened to see him leave and ask him to speak before them before he leaves them. Each chapter is a poetic essay in which he speaks on a variety of topics, from love, religion, prayer, marriage, death, pain, children, and more.

The simplicity, wonder, and beauty of the advice that the prophet gives is one that transcends any religion or belief as it touches the root of human experiences. Each topic touches on something that is uniquely human and are situations and qualities that we can all relate to.  The chapters are accompanied by Gibran’s own artwork bringing to life the words in each chapter. He was a man of many creative talents.

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

This book, in some ways, is what poetry should be. It’s not complicated, you don’t have to decipher its meaning, and its content is accessible by everyone who wants to read it. Poetry often gets a bad rap for being highfalutin and pretentious making it a genre of books that many people don’t want to read or haven’t enjoyed reading in the past. Gibran had humble beginnings and his work is a testament to his humbleness. Poetry can be resoundingly beautiful, soul-touching, and thought-provoking without being complicated. The Prophet and its popularity is a testament to that.

The Prophet is also the type of book that can be revisited numerous times as its words and lessons never lose their potency and can serve as wonderful reminders in times of difficulty or uncertainty. I particularly enjoyed the sections on love, marriage, children, pain and death and I am sure will serve as helpful reminders when I need them. This is also the type of book that doesn’t need to be read in entirety or in one sitting, as each chapter is unique and can stand on its own. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is apprehensive of poetry or for someone looking for inspiration in everyday life.

The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

“Nothing, but nothing, will block the awareness of anger so effectively as guilt and self-doubt. Our society cultivates guilt feelings in women such that many of us still feel guilty if we are anything less than an emotional service station to others.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 256 page.
Read from May 20, 2020 to June 2, 2020.

I don’t get angry. At least, not by what would you define as anger. I don’t even really know how to identify anger in my self as it automatically turns inner shame, guilt, and tears after many years of repressing it. What’s sad is that I’m not alone in this. So many women find themselves in adulthood without the ability to properly acknowledge, manage, and deal with anger that they’ve been quietly but forcibly told to subdue their whole lives.

“Why are angry women so threatening to others? If we are guilty, depressed, or self-doubting, we stay in place. We do not take action except against our own selves and we are unlikely to be agents of personal and social change. “

Angry women are bitches, unapproachable, threatening, and above all, never taken seriously, at least this is the message we are taught from a very young age. Our anger is shaped internally so that it doesn’t come out and eats at our insides. I never thought a book published in the 80s would still be so relevant to today.

“Nothing, but nothing, will block the awareness of anger so effectively as guilt and self-doubt. Our society cultivates guilt feelings in women such that many of us still feel guilty if we are anything less than an emotional service station to others.”

This book is still in print for a reason as women are still grappling with societal norms in a changing world. What I enjoyed about this book is that the author gives a variety of examples of women dealing with anger and how it is affecting their relationships, either with a spouse, family member, child, or in a work setting. The author details how women often express their anger and the disservice that it does and how to change that dynamic.

The author talks about over and under-functioning dynamics in relationships and how identifying that can help you determine where your energy needs to be directed. For example, oftentimes women are the overfunctioners in relationships and may carry the emotional weight in a marriage. When the woman recognizes that the worry is not her’s to carry in a given situation with her spouse, as the choices of her spouse are out of her control, the shift of worry is given back to the spouse. These shifts can be tumultuous as people are resistant to change, even if its change that is desired. The spouse may become anxious and stressed because the spouse was doing all the worrying for him about this given issue and that pressure caused him to previously distance or defend himself. Now, since the woman has backed off, he must deal with that given anxiety himself.

“We cannot make another person change his or her steps to an old dance, but if we change our own steps, the dance no longer can continue in the same predictable pattern.”

This is just a very simple example, as the author goes into specifics about a variety of relationship dynamics and how often times the anger we feel and the blame we try to place is often our own. We are angry but the other person we’re angry at is comfortable with the arrangement, so who is truly responsible for our anger and who is the person that’s really able to bring about change? It’s a simple concept but often one we’re not able to recognise when we’re involved in it. Recognising relationship dynamics such as these allows women to acknowledge their anger by putting the energy back into themselves instead of being overly emotionally involved in others.

The book itself is concise and details relationships in a balanced manner that portrays both genders perspectives appropriately and in a variety of different family dynamics. It’s not a self-righteous book by any means but it is able to identify the unique position that women often find themselves in. Now that I’ve read this book, does this mean that I’ll able to get angry in a healthy manner now? Not necessarily but this book has provided me with some understanding that will help me acknowledge the roots of my anger, in whatever form that it appears in, and the central part that I play in it when it comes to my personal relationships.

I would recommend this book to women who find themselves full of self-doubt when it comes to decisions and conflicts so that they can turn that guilt into what it really is, anger, and learn to find a healthier approach and create more balanced relationships with yourself and others.