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.

Ulysses by James Joyce

“To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher.”

Read from March 21, 2018 – June 22, 2018 and DNF
Read/Listened – Restarted from the beginning on November 6, 2018 and finished Oct 28, 2019.

Ulysses isn’t a book that shouldn’t be reviewed and rated. This is a novel that needs to be absorbed and taken in slowly and then discussed for its insights and absurdity. It is an accomplishment to finish this complex and behemoth of a novel. It’s too much, of well, everything. There is so much to comprehend about this book that would likely take a PhD speciality to truly appreciate. Does that mean this book was entirely enjoyable for its near 1000 pages? Nope. Was it still worth reading? Absolutely.

When I first attempted to read this novel I approached it like any other novel and got a physical copy to read. While enjoyed sections of the book this way I found myself easily distracted from the book and couldn’t stay focused and ended up stopping a quarter of the way in. I was determined to read this novel so I thought I would try an audio accompaniment while also reading it physically. This was a strange step for me as I don’t really do audiobooks but it, however, proved to be key in finishing the novel. Not only did I enjoy more of the book but I also retained more.

On top of that, I also looked up summaries of each section before listening/reading it so that I could have a better understanding of the references, metaphors, and meaning behind some of the most difficult areas of the book. Doing this deepened my appreciation for the writing as well as my enjoyment.

While it took me over a year to finish this novel, I feel that it how it is is meant to be read as there is just too much to take and in and consider if not taken in methodically.

For those that would like to try my approach you can get audio and e-versions of Ulysses completely free from these websites:

  • Librivox – Two different audio versions. I would recommend the second.
  • Gutenberg.org – A variety of PDF and Ebook downloads

Librivox is amazing. The whole book has been read by volunteers from all of over the world and while some sections read better than others, it’s still wonderful that this resource exists and would strongly recommend that you check them out for other great recordings if you like audiobooks.

All and all, I’m proud I busted through this classic piece of literature and stand on my position on not rating it. I am curious about other people’s experiences reading this book, like how did you manage to finish it? Did you enjoy it? Or has gone to your DNF shelf? Shoot me a comment below!

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

While this book came with mixed reviews from the millions of people who have read it, I personally enjoyed this timeless novel.

“I am always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 230 pages.
Read from December 13, 2016 to December 21, 2016.

If you know anything about my reading habits, it is that I like to read classics. I often feel like a neglectful reader and English major if there is a classic novel that I have not yet read so I try to work my way through as many as I can. While this book came with mixed reviews from the millions of people who have read it, I personally enjoyed this timeless novel.

Holden Caulfield is a teen on the brink of adulthood during 1949 in New York. Holden’s family is upper-middle class and as the eldest there is as a lot expected of him. Yet he fails to stay in the prestigious schools his parents keep enrolling him in. While Holden does well when he puts in the effort at school, he cannot seem to fake the persona needed to socialize and be successful in school. He is tired of the ‘phony’ people and these perceived necessary social constructs that he can neither understand and barely tolerate. His younger sister is the only person he feels he can be honest with as she is young enough to not be hindered by social constructs.  After getting kicked out of yet another school, Holden decides to put off tell his folks for a while and shacks up in a cheap hotel for a few days. Excessive drinking, wandering, flirting and sex ensue as Holden waivers between childhood and adulthood over the phony aspects of people and society.

I believe a lot of people don’t understand how this book can be timeless, or perhaps don’t understand the big deal that this book became, and that is because in this day in age we all pretty much do what we want. In the 1950s, children were raised to do what they were told and to do what was expected of them. They were literally expected to be seen and not heard and were restricted in expressing their individuality. This struggle that Holden goes through spoke to a whole generation of frustrated people. Salinger’s work was the first to be this honest and the types of feelings he depicted lead to the revolutions that you see in the 1960s and 70s where free spirit and individuality started to take presence.

I  believe this book is still timeless. Though we have that freedom of expression, Holden’s feelings of misplacement and being unsure with what to do in the next part of his life is practically universal for every youth.  Even the constant questioning of the world around him is consistent with youth all over. While Holden’s story reflects a different era, his feelings cross generations.

I would recommend this novel for any classic novel who has not yet read it and for those looking for a pragmatic read.