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Book club questions for Circe by Madeline Miller covers all the key topics and developments in this powerful book. The following book club questions will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my spoiler-free review first.
Even though Circe is most known for her association with Odysseus in The Odyssey, Miller re-imagines Circe’s story and gives her a full arc. I was up against a deadline when I read Circe. Meaning the book was due at my local library the next day. While a late fee is not the end of the world, I challenged myself to read the book in one day, which I did. But part of me was sad to leave this world and Circe behind. Circe was a page-turning, adventure story that has it all: greek mythology, love, loss and finding one’s inner strength. I rooted for Circe every step of the way and thought the ending was just right for her story.
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.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.
Book Club Questions for Circe
- First, if you read The Odyssey, did you remember Circe? How is she different in this book from that portrayal?
- As soon as Circe is born, the odds are stacked against her. She’s a nymph with the voice of a mortal. Since she’s not ‘classically’ beautiful like her mother, or strong like her father —the rest of her family finds her useless and a pest. What were your impressions of the beginning of the book and her family’s treatment of her?
- A significant moment in the book is Circe’s interaction with Prometheus where she shows him kindness. Why do you think Circe was compelled to talk with Prometheus and how was this a defining moment for her?
- Why do you think Circe was curious about mortals?
- Once Circe discovers her inner power, why do you think these powerful gods and goddesses feared Circe?
- While her family thought banishing her would be a great punishment, it actually set her free from their mistreatment and she becomes her own person on the island Aiaia. And later on in the book, Penelope finds solace on Aiaia. What do you think it was about Aiaia that gives these women inner peace? What do you think is the contemporary version of Aiaia?
- There are appearances from Hermes, the messenger of the Gods, Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus and Circe’s niece, the murderous Medea, the goddess Athena. Which one of those encounters did you enjoy the most? Which god or goddess do you wish would have shown up in the book?
- Circe does indeed turn men into pigs. And she does it quite often. Let’s talk about the symbolism of her turning the men into swine.
- What did you think about her relationship with Odysseus? Were you surprised she eventually trusts and falls for Odysseus despite being wronged by so many men, both God and mortal?
- Despite their short-lived romance, it has a long-lasting impact with the birth of her son, Telegonus. We see how far Circe is willing to go for her son with her refusal to sacrifice him to Athena. How else does Telegonus change Circe?
- The book takes a turn when Telegonus goes to Ithaca. When he comes back to the island with Penelope and Telemachus, were you surprised at their reasonings for coming to Aiaia?
- What did you think about the eventual romance with Telemachus?
- Circe eventually chooses her own path for how she wants to live and makes her big choice at the end. Did you like the ending? Why or why not?
What to Read Next
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Circe! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo is a beautifully-written story about age-old superstition, modern idealism, sibling rivalry and forbidden love.
Quick-witted, ambitious Ji Lin is stuck as an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dancehall girl to help pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts. But when one of her dance partners accidentally leaves behind a gruesome souvenir, Ji Lin may finally get the adventure she has been longing for.
Eleven-year-old houseboy Ren is also on a mission, racing to fulfill his former master’s dying wish: that Ren find the man’s finger, lost years ago in an accident, and bury it with his body. Ren has 49 days to do so, or his master’s soul will wander the earth forever.
As the days tick relentlessly by, a series of unexplained deaths racks the district, along with whispers of men who turn into tigers. Ji Lin and Ren’s increasingly dangerous paths crisscross through lush plantations, hospital storage rooms, and ghostly dreamscapes.
Yangsze Choo’s The Night Tiger pulls us into a world of servants and masters, age-old superstition and modern idealism, sibling rivalry and forbidden love. But anchoring this dazzling, propulsive novel is the intimate coming-of-age of a child and a young woman, each searching for their place in a society that would rather they stay invisible.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a compelling and heartfelt story about the rise of a ’70s rock band and their infamous breakup.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.