By Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves
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- Circe struggles to find a place for herself as a woman in a man’s world. What
parts of her experience resonate with modern day challenges that women face?
- A central theme of Homer’s Odyssey is a longing for “nostos”—
homecoming. In what way does that theme resonate with Circe’s story?
- Throughout the novel Circe draws distinctions between gods and mortals.
How does Glaucus change when he becomes a god?
- Circe wonders if parents can ever see their children clearly. She notes that
so often when looking at our children “we see only the mirror of our own
faults.” What parts of herself does she see when she looks at Telegonus? What
are her strengths and weaknesses as a parent to him?
- Circe’s sister Pasiphaë begins the novel as a major antagonist. How does our
perspective of her change after Circe’s visit to Crete?
- Circe begins the novel feeling very close to her brother Aeëtes. Why do their
paths diverge so wildly? Why do you think he makes the choices he does?
- Circe tells us that she recognizes parts of herself in Medea. In what ways are
the two women similar? In what ways are they different?
- Circe encounters several famous figures from Greek myth. Were any of
their portrayals surprising??
- There are numerous references to crafts in the novel, including weaving,
carpentry and metal-working. What role does craft play in Circe’s story?
We see numerous powerful characters abusing their positions throughout
the story. Are power and abuse necessarily connected? Are there any models
for power without cruelty in the novel?
- Circe’s gift is transformation. How does she transform from the beginning
of the novel to the end? Why does she ultimately choose the path she does?