Excerpt from Circe by Madeline Miller, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio


by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller X
Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 400 pages

    Apr 2020, 400 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

At my birth, an aunt — I will spare you her name because my tale is full of aunts — washed and wrapped me. Another tended to my mother, painting the red back on her lips, brushing her hair with ivory combs. A third went to the door to admit my father.

"A girl," my mother said to him, wrinkling her nose.

But my father did not mind his daughters, who were sweet- tempered and golden as the first press of olives. Men and gods paid dearly for the chance to breed from their blood, and my father's trea- sury was said to rival that of the king of the gods himself. He placed his hand on my head in blessing.

"She will make a fair match," he said.

"How fair?" my mother wanted to know. This might be consolation, if I could be traded for something better.

My father considered, fingering the wisps of my hair, examining my eyes and the cut of my cheeks.

"A prince, I think."

"A prince?" my mother said. "You do not mean a mortal?"

The revulsion was plain on her face. Once when I was young I asked what mortals looked like. My father said, "You may say they are shaped like us, but only as the worm is shaped like the whale."

My mother had been simpler: like savage bags of rotten flesh.

"Surely she will marry a son of Zeus," my mother insisted. She had already begun imagining herself at feasts upon Olympus, sitting at Queen Hera's right hand.

"No. Her hair is streaked like a lynx. And her chin. There is a sharpness to it that is less than pleasing."

My mother did not argue further. Like everyone, she knew the stories of Helios' temper when he was crossed. However gold he shines, do not forget his fire.

She stood. Her belly was gone, her waist reknitted, her cheeks fresh and virgin-rosy. All our kind recover quickly, but she was faster still, one of the daughters of Oceanos, who shoot their babes like roe.

"Come," she said. "Let us make a better one."

I grew quickly. My infancy was the work of hours, my toddlerhood a few moments beyond that. An aunt stayed on hoping to curry favor with my mother and named me Hawk, Circe, for my yellow eyes, and the strange, thin sound of my crying. But when she realized that my mother no more noticed her service than the ground at her feet, she vanished.

"Mother," I said, "Aunt is gone."

My mother didn't answer. My father had already departed for his chariot in the sky, and she was winding her hair with flowers, preparing to leave through the secret ways of water, to join her sisters on their grassy riverbanks. I might have followed, but then I would have had to sit all day at my aunts' feet while they gossiped of things I did not care for and could not understand. So I stayed.

My father's halls were dark and silent. His palace was a neighbor to Oceanos', buried in the earth's rock, and its walls were made of polished obsidian. Why not? They could have been anything in the world, blood-red marble from Egypt or balsam from Araby, my father had only to wish it so. But he liked the way the obsidian reflected his light, the way its slick surfaces caught fire as he passed. Of course, he did not consider how black it would be when he was gone. My father has never been able to imagine the world without himself in it.

I could do what I liked at those times: light a torch and run to see the dark flames follow me. Lie on the smooth earth floor and wear small holes in its surface with my fingers. There were no grubs or worms, though I didn't know to miss them. Nothing lived in those halls, except for us.

When my father returned at night, the ground rippled like the flank of a horse, and the holes I had made smoothed themselves over. A moment later my mother returned, smelling of flowers. She ran to greet him, and he let her hang from his neck, accepted wine, went to his great silver chair. I followed at his heels. Welcome home, Father, welcome home.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from CirceCopyright © 2018 by Madeline Miller. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Nymphs in Greek Mythology

Join BookBrowse

For a year of great reading
about exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Loved and Missed
    by Susie Boyt
    London-based author and theater director Susie Boyt has written seven novels and the PEN Ackerley ...
  • Book Jacket: Beyond the Door of No Return
    Beyond the Door of No Return
    by David Diop
    In early 19th-century France, Aglaé's father Michel Adanson dies of old age. Sitting at ...
  • Book Jacket: Crossings
    by Ben Goldfarb
    We've all seen it—a dead animal carcass on the side of the road, clearly mowed down by a car. ...
  • Book Jacket: Wifedom
    by Anna Funder
    When life became overwhelming for writer, wife, and mother Anna Funder in the summer of 2017, she ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Fair Rosaline
by Natasha Solomons
A subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Digging Stars
    by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

    Blending drama and satire, Digging Stars probes the emotional universes of love, friendship, family, and nationhood.

  • Book Jacket

    The Wren, the Wren
    by Anne Enright

    An incandescent novel about the inheritance of trauma, wonder, and love across three generations of women.

Win This Book
Win Moscow X

25 Copies to Give Away!

A daring CIA operation threatens chaos in the Kremlin. But can Langley trust the Russian at its center?



Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.