Circe by Madeline Miller (♦♦♦♦)

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Granddaughter of Oceanus, daughter of Titan Helios and sea nymph Perseid, Circe was different from the start. While her siblings discovered their unique gifts very early on and gained their independence—either by claiming their inheritance, like Perses and Aëstes, or by marriage to a wealthy demigod, like Pasiphäe—, Circe remained among her family in the halls of the gods. Her love for young fisherman Glaucus changed everything. Circe used a potion to transform Glaucus into a worthy suitor. Glaucus, seeing his station changed, fell in love with one Circe’s cousins, a sea nymph named Scylla. Out of jealousy, Circe put a potion on Scylla’s bath and, unintendedly, transformed her into a monster. Circe’s confession forced Helios to go to see Zeus, for witchcraft is something that gods fear can tip the balance of power. Zeus declared an eternal banishment for Circe from the halls of the gods to the island of Aiaia.

Exile was not easy but, as Circe learned, it had its advantages; being away f…

Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen (♦♦♦)

Convent of Our Lady of Sorrows, Arcadia, New York, 1906-1907.

Seventeen year-old Mariette Baptiste enters the convent as a postulant to become a nun following in the steps of her blood sister Annette who is known as Mother Superior Celine. Mariette is pious, virtuous, and very pretty, which garners her general approval. As months pass by, Mariette integrates fully to the religious life, but soon after her first three months are up, tragedy strikes and Mariette starts experiencing preternatural phenomena such as having the injuries of Christ during the Crucifixion, otherwise known as stigmata...But is Mariette's ecstasy real or the product of a disturbed mind?

I liked Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen. The book is written beautifully, but in a non-traditional style, integrating descriptive passages with inquiries about the true nature of Mariette's experience as seen and understood by members of her religious order. I happen to think that Mariette's ecstasy was real even when I had moments of doubt. I understood completely the attitude of her convent mates towards her: some were in awe, infatuated even, while others felt envious and repelled.

Mariette in Ecstasy doesn't have a happy ending, at least a conventional one as we would like. It is the worst of human nature that prevails here as so often happens.

In summary, Mariette in Ecstasy is beautifully written if a little unconventional both in style and in topic, but the reader will be better off after immersing in Mariette's experience.

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