400 pages
In Madeline Miller's spellbinding second novel, Circe, the golden goddess of the title knows that history will remember her unkindly: "Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep." Readers familiar with The Odyssey may recall Circe only as the beguiling witch Odysseus beds while making his way back to his faithful wife, Penelope—little more than a cautionary tale for men about feminine treachery. But in Miller's conception, Circe is the hero of her own epic.

Though she's the daughter of the mighty sun god Helios, Circe has never been at home amid the Titans who rule cruelly over the mortal world. Even as a young girl, and despite being gifted with potions and spells—among them the ability to turn sailors into pigs—she's drawn to the charms of humans, warts and all. When the sea brings Odysseus to her shores, their romance is not a struggle for dominance, but a smoldering brew of eroticism and mutual understanding. As they part for good, Circe reflects, "He showed me his scars, and in return, he let me pretend I had none." Through each of her suitors, be they mortal or divine, she evolves as a woman owning both her sexuality and her vulnerability, which are sometimes one and the same.

Miller has created a daring feminist take on a classic narrative; although the setting is a mystical world of gods, monsters, and nymphs, the protagonist at its heart is like any of us. A free woman, the author seems to be saying, must be willing to forsake the trappings of birthright and rank in order to claim her destiny, whether thousands of years ago or today. 
— Tayari Jones