Generally Gothic Book Club Readalong: 'Circe'

“In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is strange – not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. But she has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When Circe’s gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone cannot live in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.”

A protagonist born of the gods, cast out, vilified, and powerful? An idyllic landscape, whose peace is threatened? A witch? – I’m in!

Whilst everything that this blurb promises for the plot appeals, that final sentence sits badly with the little pedant in me. For anyone who knows their Greek mythology, Odysseus is not “an unexpected visitor.” His presence is the one thing we do expect; we are familiar with Circe because of him.

Obviously, I appreciate that this is likely written with Circe’s perspective in mind. Every time the story is read she comes to life for the reader and experiences the same chronology of events anew. I am also aware that intrigue hooks and that a blurb’s intention is to do just that – to captivate a person and turn them into a reader.

What I do not exactly take issue with but certainly question, however, is the blurb’s disregard of Circe’s existing lore… Of Homer’s great epic, The Odyssey, and of her presence in many places across the canon of classical Greek literature and mythology. My point is that Circe is a retelling – or perhaps more accurately, a reimagining; I don’t know yet – and this is no bad thing.

” “[𝓣]𝓱𝓮𝓼𝓮 𝓼𝓽𝓸𝓻𝓲𝓮𝓼, 𝓽𝓱𝓸𝓾𝓰𝓱 𝓼𝓸 𝓸𝓯𝓽𝓮𝓷 𝓽𝓸𝓵𝓭, 𝓲𝓷 𝓼𝓾𝓬𝓱 𝓿𝓪𝓻𝓲𝓮𝓭 𝓯𝓸𝓻𝓶𝓼, 𝓶𝓪𝔂 𝓼𝓽𝓲𝓵𝓵 𝓫𝓮𝓪𝓻 𝓻𝓮𝓽𝓮𝓵𝓵𝓲𝓷𝓰.”
– A. R. Hope Moncrieff

We are still telling the same stories today that the ancient Greeks told thousands of years before us because they are exciting, and captivating, and still have something relevant to say. I believe that Circe will be an interesting read for fans of Greek mythology, like myself, whilst also offering an accessible entry to readers unfamiliar with the classic texts or tales. With this optimistic prophecy – I am 80 pages in so, it is conjecture, but with basis! – in mind, I invite you all to join me in reading Circe this January.

© Generally Gothic

I am interested to discover if the origins of the gothic are visible in Miller’s novel. I make no claims yet, and encourage you to help me on my literary expedition! The following are things that I am beginning to consider whilst reading; I will share them as questions in case you’d like to consider them too.

> What, if any, is your knowledge of Circe, and where does it come from?
> How does your preexisting image of Circe compare to the character offered by Miller? Or, if this is your first interaction with Circe, how does it compare with any preconceptions or expectations you invented for yourself?
> Why do you think she is still of interest, thousands of years after her first literary appearances, to contemporary readers?
> What, if any, gothic elements do you recognise, in the story and the characters?
> Is the influence of Circe, or her story, apparent in any gothic novels, characters, or tropes? What about mythology in general?

Whether you choose to consider the above questions or not, if you pick up Circe this January, you’re in the club*! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, on Instagram here, or in your own posts tagging #generallygothicbookclub and @generallygothic so I don’t miss anything! We’ll take it at a leisurely pace; throughout the month I’ll post little nudges on the Generally Gothic Instagram feed and on stories, and welcome discussions. At the end of the month I’ll let the spoilers fly free in a final blog post here.
*And if you don’t make it this January, this post and I will be ready and waiting.

The generally gothic theme for January is Gothic Muses. It is a chance to look back, beyond the beginning, and to explore that which influenced the as yet unborn gothic genre. Follow along here (by choosing to Hex Yourself) and across social media (the main chats happen on Instagram).

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