“Circe” By Madeline Miller
Circe is the daughter of Helios, Greeky mythology’s god of the sun. Our story begins shortly before Circe is exiled to the island of Aiaia for her use of magic, a rare power that frightens her immortal father, Zeus, and all the other toga-wearing dudes in charge.
On its surface, last year’s huge hit “Circe” is a retelling of a classic, “The Odyssey,” but from the POV of one of the “bad guys.” (I love this genre. Think: Wide Sargasso Sea, Wicked, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.)
But under the surface, I think “Circe” is a powerful allegory for surviving rape in the modern world, and the types of rage, ramifications, recovery, and relationships that can follow it.
I give it four out of four suns!
Fist pump moment:
“Later, years later, I would hear a song made of our meeting. The boy who sang it was unskilled, missing notes more often than he hit, yet the sweet music of the verses shone through his mangling. I was not surprised by the portrait of myself: the proud witch undone before the hero’s sword, kneeling and begging for mercy. Humbling women seems to me the chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”Circe
“Dietland” by Sarai Walker
I recently picked up this book, billed as “Fight Club for Feminists,” after reading about the AMC television series based on the book. (Book = 2015. TV show = 2018.)
Plum Kettle is an overweight, late-20-something New Yorker who ghostwrites email responses to girls as Kitty, a fashion magazine editor who likes to talk about how, despite her current status, she used to be really ugly/ bullied and, like, totally gets what girls like Plum Kettle (and the traumatized teen email senders) are going through.
Only she doesn’t, and neither does Plum, really. Plum is, in fact, waiting for her “real life” to begin once her upcoming lap band surgery makes her the skinny person she knows she really is on the inside. Not until a rogue female-led terrorist group starts going all Dexter on bad guys and (even more satisfying) bad corporations and degrading, sales-fueled status quos, does Plum start to wake up. Maybe.
As readers try to unwrap what’s real and what isn’t, Plum soon finds herself at the criminal organization’s hard candy center.
What happens next is delicious.
Fist pump moment:
“I looked at my body, the body that had kept me alive for nearly 30 years, without any serious health problems, the body that had taken me where I needed to go and protected me. I had never appreciated or loved the body that had done so much for me. I had thought of it as my enemy, as nothing more than a shell that enclosed my real self, but it wasn’t a shell. The body was me.”Plum Kettle
“The Power” by Naomi Alderman
This book was a fan favorite when it came out in 2016 because it struck twin nerves of timing and topic.
A disconcerting, well-spun tale of what might happen if women started being born with more physical strength than men, “The Power” is also a statement on the abuses of power that can transpire when hatred or revenge is at the root of our decision making — regardless of who ~got da power~.
This book does what books (especially sci-fi books) do best: provide an unapologetically, cathartically violent outlet for fury… while also delivering a message that can evolve our understanding of that fury for the benefit of the real world.
Fist pump moment:
“The shape of power is always the same: it is infinite, it is complex, it is forever branching. While it is alive like a tree, it is growing; while it contains itself, it is a multitude. Its directions are unpredictable; it obeys its own laws. No one can observe the acorn and extrapolate each vein in each leaf of the oak crown. The closer you look, the more various it becomes. However complex you think it is, it is more complex than that. Like the rivers to the ocean, like the lightning strike, it is obscene and uncontained.”