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Madeline Miller’s Mythological Mediocrity

CirceI appear to differ from most people’s opinion on this novel. Sadly, I thought it was fairly mediocre and was rather disappointed by it. This is unfortunate because I’m a great fan of Greek myths and antiquity in general, my enthusiasm dating back to childhood when I read Mary Renault.

Ms. Miller is characterized as the modern equivalent to Renault, but seems to lack the latter writer’s dramatic flair. While her initial description of the witch Circe’s dysfunctional, immortal family, with a distant, self absorbed father, and jealous, hateful siblings, originally held my interest, this dissipated as the novel plodded on in a mostly unmemorable fashion.

The author seems very interested in human dynamics, particularly the interaction between men and women. There’s a great deal of portentous talk between characters, but again very little in the way of action or real drama. Her characterization of Odysseus particularly disappointed me with the Master of Stratagems reduced to a walk-on role as a handy, capable friend with benefits for Circe.

There was a good deal after the Big O left the scene, but again nothing really of interest to me. It did come to a conclusion, unlike many novels, but I also found that unsatisfying. This is just my own opinion, but this novel does seem to appeal to very many readers, perhaps ones having an interest in the Greek myths being told from a feminist perspective. I do not fault any effort to write in such a vein. I simply wish that I’d read something of that type that was much more interesting.

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