The Silence of the Girls
From the Booker Prize-winning author of the Regeneration trilogy comes a monumental new masterpiece, set in the midst of literature's most famous war. Pat Barker turns her attention to the timeless legend of The Iliad , as experienced by the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War. The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, who continue to wage bloody war over a stolen woman--Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war's outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles's concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army. When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and cooly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate, not only of Briseis's people, but also of the ancient world at large. Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war--the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead--all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis's perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker's latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives--and it is nothing short of magnificent.

The Silence of the Girls Details

TitleThe Silence of the Girls
Author
ReleaseSep 4th, 2018
PublisherDoubleday Books
ISBN-139780385544214
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology, Retellings, Literary Fiction, War, Adult Fiction, Novels

The Silence of the Girls Review

  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Royal Briseis is presented to Achilles as a prize for sacking and destroying Lyrnessus a neighboring city of Troy. So this is a re-telling of the final few weeks of The Iliad’s Trojan War from the perspective of a “bed-slave”. While Briseis has it better than the abject slavery of many other female captives her life is, in its own way, just as brutal. The prose of Part One is bewitching but it falls apart for a few chapters within Part Two where it veers off into clichés as well as attempts at c Royal Briseis is presented to Achilles as a prize for sacking and destroying Lyrnessus a neighboring city of Troy. So this is a re-telling of the final few weeks of The Iliad’s Trojan War from the perspective of a “bed-slave”. While Briseis has it better than the abject slavery of many other female captives her life is, in its own way, just as brutal. The prose of Part One is bewitching but it falls apart for a few chapters within Part Two where it veers off into clichés as well as attempts at conveying conversation with a sense of realism. You’ll recognize this sort of thing: “ We-ell, ye-es, no-o, list-en” which is annoying, distracting and unnecessary. We get back on track afterwards. The characters are gratifyingly complicated, distressed and conflicted. After all, isn’t this why these classic legends endure?
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    It's so hard to divorce my love of the Iliad from my experience reading The Silence of the Girls, but I think that's partially what makes this such a fantastic retelling. Told primarily from the perspective of Briseis, a Trojan captive given to Achilles as a war prize, Pat Barker's novel endeavors to tell the unsung story of the female characters who litter the background of the Ancient Greek epic. And she does a pretty brilliant job.The pleasure I derive from reading retellings, and especially It's so hard to divorce my love of the Iliad from my experience reading The Silence of the Girls, but I think that's partially what makes this such a fantastic retelling. Told primarily from the perspective of Briseis, a Trojan captive given to Achilles as a war prize, Pat Barker's novel endeavors to tell the unsung story of the female characters who litter the background of the Ancient Greek epic. And she does a pretty brilliant job.The pleasure I derive from reading retellings, and especially retellings of Homer, is twofold: I want to see the author's unique slant on the narrative and feel that they're contributing something new to the story, otherwise what's the point, but I also want to be reminded of my love of the original. On both fronts, The Silence of the Girls is a resounding success. Pat Barker captured the grandiosity of these characters and events in a way that really struck a chord with me; I felt constantly on the verge of tears reading parts of this novel because Homer's musings on fate and free will and grief and glory - in short, what makes the Iliad so epic and timeless - are all echoed in Briseis' narrative. But Barker also manages it all from the sidelines, zeroing in on the experiences of a war slave who has no choice but to watch events unfold around her with no personal agency. Briseis is fully aware that she is not the hero of her own story, that she's narrating these events as a spectator to her own life. You could argue that at times she almost has a bit too much awareness of this fact, but as she's narrating these events from years later, the time and perspective have clearly allowed her to form the big picture.I also felt these were some of the best depictions I've ever read of these characters, notably Achilles and Patroclus. I find that certain writers have a difficult time reconciling Achilles' brutality with his heroism, and likewise Patroclus' ruthless streak with his kindness. But Barker frankly addresses that, in times of war especially, these characteristics can easily coexist. I really felt that these characters had walked straight out of the pages of the Iliad into Barker's story, in a way that I haven't seen achieved by any other retelling I've read (except maybe Ransom by David Malouf, which until now has been my go-to recommendation for modern Iliad retellings). Briseis is a very minor character in the original, and as such, Barker had a lot more leeway with her protagonist, but I was also satisfied with the result; I was immediately invested in Briseis and I thought she added a much-needed and underrepresented perspective to the story.My biggest issue with this novel the unwieldy execution of the point of view shifts. Though this retelling focuses on Briseis, so much of the backdrop and what drives the characters' motivations hinges on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, and for Briseis to narrate that to us any more than she already does would verge too heavily into 'telling rather than showing' territory, so I really didn't mind the occasional inclusion of the male perspectives. But the first person/third person switch feels arbitrary and messy, especially since Briseis herself spends so much time observing and narrating Achilles's actions. I felt like Barker could have played with this a bit more; played up the uncertainty that maybe we aren't reading Achilles's thoughts, but rather, Briseis' interpretation of Achilles's thoughts.... but nothing is really made of this opportunity, as it's clear that we're supposed to be in Achilles' head, but rather unclear why we've switched over to his thoughts at any given moment.But aside from that, this book was pretty much everything I wanted it to be. It's subversive yet subtle; affecting yet understated. It captures the epic scale of the Iliad and the quiet moments of beauty in the story and everything in between. It's definitely a subtler feminist retelling than the likes of Circe and The Penelopiad, but I have to say I much, much preferred The Silence of the Girls - though I would readily recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the aforementioned novels. But for all my talk of retellings and Greek classics, I really don't think you need prior knowledge of any of that before starting Barker's novel - it's a stunning story that should stand on its own just fine.Thank you to Netgalley, Doubleday Books, and Pat Barker for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    I've been trying to escape not just from the camp but from Achilles' story This is the best modern re-telling of the Iliad that I've read - even if it does perhaps extend too far, taking in the aftermath of war as told in Athenian tragedies: the Hekabe, and the Trojan Women especially. Told in a straightforward narrative, the majority in 1st person from Briseis with intermittent 3rd person chapters from the POV of Achilles, this is both accurate to the tone, register and thought-world of ancien I've been trying to escape not just from the camp but from Achilles' story This is the best modern re-telling of the Iliad that I've read - even if it does perhaps extend too far, taking in the aftermath of war as told in Athenian tragedies: the Hekabe, and the Trojan Women especially. Told in a straightforward narrative, the majority in 1st person from Briseis with intermittent 3rd person chapters from the POV of Achilles, this is both accurate to the tone, register and thought-world of ancient Greek epic and also a fully-formed novel in its own right. In that sense, it reminds me a little of Atwood's The Penelopiad, especially with its attention to female experience - though it certainly lacks the savage playfulness of Atwood's piece.It's perhaps a little unfair that the premise claims that female voices are muted in the story of the Trojan war: Helen's weaving, which Barker rightly draws attention to, has been claimed by classical scholars as a form of female 'authorship' making her a parallel to Homer himself; and Athenian tragedy makes female voices - both lamenting and raging - central to the culture's experience. The Andromache, Hecuba, The Trojan Women, Iphigenia, Helen and others all make interventions in the Homeric story, telling 'the distaff side' of the tale.Nevertheless, there's certainly room for a modern 'Iliad' and especially one which side-steps the Mills-and-Boon-esque versions of writers like Madeleine Miller. Here we have a far more robust Achilles and (yes!) a female slave who *isn't* in love with him.Barker's experience of writing about war stands her in good stead and there are some echoes forward of trench warfare that draw comparisons with her WW1 work. But this book stands on its own feet: a glorious, subtle and wonderfully Homeric version of a tale made fresh again for a modern audience.Many thanks to Penguin for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Joseph
    January 1, 1970
    The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker is a retelling of the Illiad through the eyes of Briseis. Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics. She is the author of several historical fiction novels.Briseis was the mythical queen of Lyrnessus in Asian Minon at the time of the Trojan War. She finds herself trapped in the city walls as the Greeks lay siege to the city. She watches as Achilles kills her The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker is a retelling of the Illiad through the eyes of Briseis. Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics. She is the author of several historical fiction novels.Briseis was the mythical queen of Lyrnessus in Asian Minon at the time of the Trojan War. She finds herself trapped in the city walls as the Greeks lay siege to the city. She watches as Achilles kills her husband and sons. Briseis is taken prisoner and given to Achilles as a prize by Agamemnon. Captive life is not pleasant as Achilles bedmate, but she does have freedom of movement in the camp. She becomes key in the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon.The story told from the Briseis perspective a queen who is suddenly a slave is exciting in itself since slaves and women never had a voice in that period (mythical or not). At some point, however, it does seem like women's literature especially when Briseis talks with the other women in the camp. The language appears too modern in places, but I suppose there were the same words in Greek as modern English. This is also offset by with battles and bubonic plague.  There is a healthy mix of perspective, mythology, and storytelling in this novel. An excellent telling of a classic story that does adds to the original instead of harming the original.  A well-done adaptation. 
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    "'Silence becomes a woman.' Every woman I’ve ever known was brought up on that saying."Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Iliad, the story of Achilles at the siege of Troy. The epigraph to Barker's novel is what she has said in the inspiration for this book, a passage from Philip Roth's The Human Stain:"‘You know how European literature begins?’ he’d ask, after having taken the roll at the first class meeting. ‘With a quarrel. All of European literature springs from a fi "'Silence becomes a woman.' Every woman I’ve ever known was brought up on that saying."Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Iliad, the story of Achilles at the siege of Troy. The epigraph to Barker's novel is what she has said in the inspiration for this book, a passage from Philip Roth's The Human Stain:"‘You know how European literature begins?’ he’d ask, after having taken the roll at the first class meeting. ‘With a quarrel. All of European literature springs from a fight.’ And then he picked up his copy of The Iliad and read to the class the opening lines. ‘“ Divine Muse, sing of the ruinous wrath of Achilles . . . Begin where they first quarreled , Agamemnon the King of men, and great Achilles.” And what are they quarreling about, these two violent, mighty souls? It’s as basic as a barroom brawl. They are quarreling over a woman. A girl, really. A girl stolen from her father. A girl abducted in a war.’"That girl is Briseis whose voice is entirely absent from the Iliad. Barker's aim and achievement is to give her back her voice.Briseis was the wife of King Mynes, ruler of the Trojan city of Lyrnessus. Even there, living in luxury, she notes that her husband is blind to the tensions between her, his mother and her slave girl lover:"Mynes seemed entirely unaware of the tension, but then in my experience men are curiously blind to aggression in women. They’re the warriors, with their helmets and armour, their swords and spears, and they don’t seem to see our battles – or they prefer not to. Perhaps if they realized we’re not the gentle creatures they take us for their own peace of mind would be disturbed?"As the novel opens, when she was aged 19, the city was conquered by the Greek coalition, Mynes and all of the males were slaughtered (her father, three brothers and husband by Achilles) and the women shared among the conquerors. Briseis was given as a prize to Achilles for his bravery in the conflict.Later in the siege of Troy, King Agamemnon, commander of the Greek forces, was forced to return one of his prizes, the 15 year old Chryseis, to her father, a priest of Apollo, to appease the god and stop a plague that is decimating the camp. In turn he demanded that Achilles, who had led the demands for him to return Chryseis, hand over Briseis to him. Achilles does so but then withdraws himself and his troops from the conflict, tipping the balance of forces in the Trojans favour. Achilles is only persuaded to rejoin the battle when his best friend, Patroclus, is killed by Hector while wearing Achilles own armour.Barker retells this story but in Briseis' first person words:"I’d become something altogether more sinister: I was the girl who’d caused the quarrel. Oh, yes, I’d caused it – in much the same way, I suppose, as a bone is responsible for a dogfight."I am writing this as someone whose own knowledge of The Iliad is fairly limited - Briseis is not a name I would have previously recognised. But that wasn't an issue reading the novel, it functions very well as a stand-alone self-contained text (with perhaps the occasional resort to Wikipedia for a who was that, or what happened next), and from others' reviews it seems to function equally well for those immersed in the original.I also haven't read many of the obvious peers for comparison, notably Madeleine Miller's novels such as Curve, so my review is in absolute not relative terms.Barker's telling isn't a modern rewrite but rather historical fiction. It sticks very closely to the original, only allowing herself leeway where there is more than one version (she has little time for the Achilles' heel story for example, she also has ). And it isn't a feminist rewrite - and perhaps all the better for that. Her Briseis is a living breathing woman of her time, she knows the rules by which she is required to live, but that doesn't stop her having her own views.The novel starts strikingly, immediately reminding us that history is written by the victors, here the Greeks not, as in Briseis case, the Trojans:"Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles . . . How the epithets pile up. We never called him any of those things; we called him ‘the butcher’."The story takes us from the fall of Lyrnessus through to the death of Achilles and the fall of Troy, but in Barker's retelling we get less of the glory and more of the human reality of blood and guts, less of the heroic Greek warriors and more of the stories of the Trojan women, bereaved and handed out as trophies to the very men who killed their own loved ones. After Briseis is first is forced to sleep with Achilles:"I lay there, hating him, though of course he wasn’t doing anything he didn’t have a perfect right to do. If his prize of honour had been the armour of a great lord he wouldn’t have rested till he’d tried it out: lifted the shield, picked up the sword, assessed its length and weight, slashed it a few times through the air. That’s what he did to me. He tried me out."As later Priam comes secretly to the enemy camp to plead with Achilles for the return of his son Hector's body, he says:"'I do what no man before me has ever done, I kiss the hands of the man who killed my son.' Those words echoed round me, as I stood in the storage hut, surrounded on all sides by the wealth Achilles had plundered from burning cities. I thought:'And I do what countless women before me have been forced to do. I spread my legs for the man who killed my husband and my brothers.'"Briseis key aim is to restore her status as a person, not a thing to be traded as a war trophy.Contemplating the prospect of becoming Achilles wife, she enters in to a dialogue with the reader:"'Would you really have married the man who’d killed your brothers?'Well, first of all, I wouldn’t have been given a choice. But yes, probably. Yes. I was a slave, and a slave will do anything , anything at all, to stop being a thing and become a person again. 'I just don’t know how you could do that.'Well, no, of course you don’t. You’ve never been a slave."As her relationship with King Priam temporarily reminds others of her status:"Automedon blinked, forced, for a moment – and I honestly think it was for the first time – to see me as a human being, somebody who had a sister – and a sister, moreover, who was King Priam’s daughter- in-law.As she contemplates trying to return with Priam to the doomed Troy:"I saw my sister, my brother-in-law, the warmth and safety of their home – and above and beyond all that, the great prize of freedom. Me – myself again, a person with family, friends, a role in life. A woman, not a thing. Wasn’t that a prize worth risking everything for, however short a time I might have to enjoy it?"One challenge the author faced is that there is a practical limit to how much of the story Briseis can have witnessed. While she succeeds in inserting her into several crucial moments, and at times has her relaying indirect reports of what happened elsewhere, for around a quarter of the novel Barker resorts to replacing Briseis' first person narration with a privileged third person narration from the perspective of the male characters, particularly Achilles (or Briseis later understanding of their perspective? the narrator's identity is a little unclear). I can understand why she has felt it necessary to do this, although it would have been a braver decision to have done without it, and allow some of the well-known drama between Achilles and Agamemnon simply not to be present on the page and merely seen by the impact on Briseis (and to the reader via their background knowledge of the story).The third person sections do allow the novel to also present a (revisionist) character study of Achilles himself, one that present him as something of a Mummy's boy, still a child to his immortal mother the Nereid Thetis. Briseis first sees this, but without knowing what she sees, when she witnesses Achilles swimming (unusually for the time) and then seemingly speaking to the sea:"He seemed to be arguing  with the sea, arguing or pleading  . . . The only word I thought I  understood was ‘Mummy’ and that made no sense at all. Mummy?   No, that couldn’t be right. But then he said it again: ‘Mummy, Mummy, ’like a small child crying to be picked up. It had to mean something else, but then ‘Mummy’is the same, or nearly the same, in so many different languages. Whatever it meant, I knew I shouldn’t be hearing it, but I didn’t dare move and so I crouched down and waited for it to stop."Later a privileged third person section gives us Achilles perspective:"He is, first and foremost, ‘the son of Peleus’– the name he’s known by throughout the army; his original, and always his most important, title. But that’s his public self. When he’s alone, and especially on those early-morning visits to the sea, he knows himself to be, inescapably, his mother’s son. She left when he was not quite seven, the age at which a boy leaves the women’s quarters and enters the world of men. Perhaps that’s why he never quite managed to make the transition, though it would astonish the men who’ve fought beside him to hear him say that. But of course he doesn’t say it. It’s a flaw, a weakness; he knows to keep it well hidden from the world. Only at night, drifting between sleep and waking, he finds himself back in the briny darkness of her womb, the long mistake of mortal life erased at last."This theme - that each of the warriors who fought and died is ultimately a mother's son - is brought out powerfully when Briseis first gives us the long list of those slaughtered by Achilles in the assault on Troy and how he vanquished them, and then gives us their mother's memory of them, for example:"And then – Laogonus and Dardanus, brothers. They clung to the sides of their chariot, but Achilles hooked them out of it, as easily as picking out winkles with a pin. And then he killed them, quickly, efficiently, one with a spear thrust, the other with his sword. And then –""But you see the problem, don’t you? How on earth can you feel any pity or concern confronted by this list of intolerably nameless names? In later life, wherever I went, I always looked for the women of Troy who’d been scattered all over the Greek world. That skinny old woman with brown-spotted hands shuffling to answer her master’s door, can that really be Queen Hecuba, who, as a young and beautiful girl, newly married, had led the dancing in King Priam’s hall? Or that girl in the torn and shabby dress, hurrying to fetch water from the well, can that be one of Priam’s daughters?...I met a lot of the women, many of them common women whose names you won’t have heard. And so I can tell you that the brothers Laogonus and Dardanus weren’t just brothers, they were twins. When they were little, Dardanus’speech was so bad his own mother couldn’t understand him. ‘What’s he saying?’she’d ask his brother. ‘He says he wants a slice of bread,’Laogonus would reply. ‘You’ve got to make him talk,’ the boys' grandmother said. ‘Make him ask for it himself.’ ‘But I was busy,’ the mother told me. ‘I’d have been stood there hours if I’d listened to her.’And Briseis realises, defiantly, that by fathering children with their Trojan women, the Greeks have accidentally ensured the survival of their culture:"We’re going to survive – our songs, our stories. They’ll never be able to forget us. Decades after the last man who fought at Troy is dead, their sons will remember the songs their Trojan mothers sang to them. We’ll be in their dreams – and in their worst nightmares too."One slightly odd note is sounded by the occasional imposition of slang speech patterns in dialogues, for example:"‘Oooh, sorry I spoke.’""He made love – huh! – as if he hoped the next fuck would kill me.""I’d survived. We-ell, in a manner of speaking I’d survived.""‘Not like he does.’ Achilles looked up at Patroclus. ‘Oh, c’mon, when have you ever seen me drunk?’""‘He’s not human,’ Ajax blurted out. ‘Well of course he bloody isn’t,’ Agamemnon said. ‘His mother’s a fish.’"If done consistently I would have less of an issue: we can't have the characters in an English language novel speaking vernacular ancient Greek, and standard British English is as good a representation as any. But the effect seems to have been rather randomly sprinkled in the text (and often in italics as if to draw attention).But that minor issue aside, this is a strong retelling.As the story concludes, Briseis realises that her attempt to tell her own story has to an extent failed. But Achilles is dead and her life is only just starting:"Suppose, suppose just once, once, in all these centuries, the slippery gods keep their word and Achilles is granted eternal glory in return for his early death under the walls of Troy . . .? What will they make of us, the people of those unimaginably distant times? One thing I do know : they won’t want the brutal reality of conquest and slavery. They won’t want to be told about the massacres of men and boys, the enslavement of women and girls. They won’t want to know we were living in a rape camp. No, they’ll go for something altogether softer. A love story, perhaps? I just hope they manage to work out who the lovers were. His story. His, not mine. It ends at his grave. Once, not so long ago, I tried to walk out of Achilles’ story – and failed. Now, my own story can begin."Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for the ARC. 3.5 stars. Reduced to 3 on later reflection as the novel's flaws have remained with me as much as it's strengths.
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  • Paula Bardell-Hedley
    January 1, 1970
    “How was it possible for these high walls that had protected us all our lives to fall?” Having come straight from reading The Beekeeper of Sinjar, a collection of harrowing first-hand accounts of women taken captive by Daesh, to The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker's reimagining of the legendary Trojan War from a female perspective, it was disconcertingly effortless to step from 21st century Iraq to 13th century BCE Greece. So little, it seems, has altered in parts of the world during the inter “How was it possible for these high walls that had protected us all our lives to fall?” Having come straight from reading The Beekeeper of Sinjar, a collection of harrowing first-hand accounts of women taken captive by Daesh, to The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker's reimagining of the legendary Trojan War from a female perspective, it was disconcertingly effortless to step from 21st century Iraq to 13th century BCE Greece. So little, it seems, has altered in parts of the world during the intervening millennia.Barker is a multi award-winning British novelist – most memorably carrying off the Booker prize in 1995 for The Ghost Road, her final title in the remarkable Regeneration trilogy. She has been high on my list of favourite authors since her 1982 debut, Union Street, in which she told seven interwoven tales of working class women from the north of England whose lives had been circumscribed by deprivation and violence. Inevitably my expectations were high upon receiving a pre-publication copy of her first novel since the release of Noonday in 2015 (the final book in her most recent series). I'm relieved to report that I was far from disappointed.Known for writing on themes of memory, trauma, survival and recovery, it was perhaps unsurprising that Barker should choose to rewrite an ancient Greek epic (the Iliad, in this instance) from the point of view of the beautiful and clever Briseis of Lyrnessus, the mythical wife of Mynes, king of the Cilicians, who was captured during the siege of her homeland. Briseis's father, mother and brothers were all slaughtered during the invasion, after which she was given to the great warrior Achilles as a prize for his prowess in battle, to be his sex slave. Like Homer, Barker depicts Briseis as a valuable possession, but one who becomes a pawn in a quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon, the brutal king of Mycenae, in the final year of the war. The latter angers Apollo by capturing Chryseis, the daughter of one of his priests. In revenge, the young god unleashes a plague on the Achaean Army, which can only be dispelled by returning the girl to her father. Agamemnon eventually agrees to do so, though with great reluctance, but immediately secures face-saving compensation by taking Briseis from Achilles, causing the conquering hero to withdraw from battle. She is eventually returned to him following the death of his closest friend Patroclus, when he returns to the battlefront and slays the Trojan hero Hector outside the gates of Troy – but by this time innumerable Greek lives have been lost.The death of Achilles is not presented in the Iliad, but it is said that he was killed by Paris with an arrow to the heel, and his ashes buried in the same urn as Patroclus. Nothing is known of what happened to Briseis following his death, but it is likely she became the slave of another Greek warrior.In Barker's hands, the blue-eyed, golden-haired slave is a powerless but calmly unflinching observer of events: a voice for women silenced by history. She learns to adapt and survive but endures a great many humiliations from Achilles and other male characters who regard the female sex as mere chattels, useful only to satisfy their needs.It is quite some time since I last found myself so utterly immersed in a historical novel. Pat Barker is unquestionably on form with this retelling of the most famous conflict in literature. She has produced a truly magnificent piece of writing.Many thanks to Hamish Hamilton for providing an advance review copy of this title.
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  • Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)
    January 1, 1970
    Originally posted on A Frolic Through FictionThe ancient stories are always male dominated, with women’s voices being pushed aside in favour of those “heroes” instead. Although let’s be real, my idea of what defines a hero definitely isn’t the type you find in many Greek myths. So imagine my excitement when finding out this book exists, giving another perspective – the women’s perspective – of the stories I’d read and loved before. Combining Homer’s The Iliad and The Trojan Women by Euripides, m Originally posted on A Frolic Through FictionThe ancient stories are always male dominated, with women’s voices being pushed aside in favour of those “heroes” instead. Although let’s be real, my idea of what defines a hero definitely isn’t the type you find in many Greek myths. So imagine my excitement when finding out this book exists, giving another perspective – the women’s perspective – of the stories I’d read and loved before. Combining Homer’s The Iliad and The Trojan Women by Euripides, my anticipation for this book was REAL .Probably more real than some of these guys’ “heroic” status.Ohhh she said it.So, the book. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s set from the women’s perspective – in particular, Briseis’ perspective – and for that very reason alone the first thing I have to say is this book is brutal . All the everyday brutalities are brought forward and laid out on a nice li’l plate in front of you. The rape, violence, slavery and permanent state of fear surrounding these women can’t be ignored when it’s actually being felt. Whereas the original, male dominated stories normalise these events and leave them as things better left unsaid (being hushed again you see), the women in this book are given back their voices and are allowed to tell their stories, all things included. So yes, it does make for a brutal read. Not too detailed, mind you. But do be wary if you’re interested in this book that these topics are mentioned fairly often.What I found interesting though was how the new perspective sets you on a kind of ledge. It’s difficult to decide where your loyalties lie because barely any situation is a good one. You know for the war to end, one side must win. But which one? I don’t know. Because who do you support when everybody around you is – for a lack of better wording – a piece of sh*t?But before all faith in humanity is lost, the smaller interactions between some characters just saves it all. The chats between the mothers of soldiers, nattering away about their children. The memories shared of Helen. And li’l Patroclus, who is basically a saint amongst these people, let’s be real. Something about these interactions just warmed my heart slightly, even if they weren’t necessarily touch-your-heart-wholesome content. Just the simple fact of shared memories and minute details adding a touch of something that made the story feel more real, more personal…it’s what the original stories needed. Not a book-long speech proclaiming the so-called heroic acts of one or two people. Actual emotion. Imagine that? (Don’t worry Iliad, I still love you really) There is…one thing I have to fault though. This book is marketed primarily as the Trojan War from the women’s perspectives. However after the first part, the book pulls you out of that perspective, puts you into third person, and tells the overarching story. The Trojan War. Which is male dominated. So you focus once again on the typical heroes – Achilles, Patroclus, Agamemnon, Hector, etc etc. You know the sort. But why? The story could’ve easily been told by the women who were there. There were plenty of them around. 97% of the time, a woman was even close enough to know what was happening when it was happening, and if not, she found out soon enough. So…why…did we have to switch back to the men?Now don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t actually a problem with reading about men. Lord no. But when a book is marketed as being from the women’s perspective, it just seemed to undermine that idea a bit when it constantly took you away from that. It was jarring. And unnecessary. Honestly it just baffles me a little, if anything.BUT that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book. It was a fairly quick read, with me reading it in just a couple of days – whether that be from a fast pace, my excitement to be holding it, or the rapid countdown for me to finish the book before I went on holiday, you decide. It was brutal, emotional, and added another layer to a well loved story, telling some of the stories that should’ve been told in the first place.*Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book. This in no way affects my opinion.
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  • Liv (Stories For Coffee)
    January 1, 1970
    ACTUAL RATING 4.5 STARSI am utterly breathless. This novel was so much more than I imagined it would be. Following the point of view of Briseis, this story tells the tale of the Trojan War from the eyes of a girl who is taken from her city and is claimed as Achilles' prize for conquering her homeland. This is what sets up the gruesome and raw tale of this explosive war that so many have read about but has never been shown through the eyes of a woman who becomes a slave and an object that is foug ACTUAL RATING 4.5 STARSI am utterly breathless. This novel was so much more than I imagined it would be. Following the point of view of Briseis, this story tells the tale of the Trojan War from the eyes of a girl who is taken from her city and is claimed as Achilles' prize for conquering her homeland. This is what sets up the gruesome and raw tale of this explosive war that so many have read about but has never been shown through the eyes of a woman who becomes a slave and an object that is fought over by these warriors. What really makes this story incredible is the unfiltered thoughts of Briseis who casts Achilles in a villainous light, which I adored. While I enjoy the entire Achilles + Patroclus story that everyone tells (and is included in this retelling, as well), it was so refreshing to read about Achilles as the man he truly was, an arrogant, self-centered, spiteful killer who had no mercy for others. The way his story wraps around Briseis and takes center stage truly showcases how he conquered everyone around him until he was in the spotlight. I loved how much I loathed him, in this retelling, and I believe this is my favorite portrayal of Achilles because he shows how indifferent he is to the shockwaves of his actions.Both Achilles' brutality was shown, as well as the horrors of the Trojan War. Because we see most of the story told from Briseis' perspective, we are able to witness the mistreatment of the other women in the camp, the barbaric acts of the Greek warriors, and the shock waves of the war and how it changes each person fighting on both sides. This is definitely a darker retelling that isn't for everyone, but it is eye-opening to see the blatant mistreatment and objectification of women in a war-like-setting which made me feel for these characters forced to be in the middle of this dark time in history.If you're a fan of The Song of Achilles or The Iliad, you'd most definitely fall in love with this haunting tale that I still think about, weeks after finishing the novel. It mixes the horrors of war, the mistreatment of women, and the strength of Briseis which was awe-inspiring. The Silene of the Girls shows the darker side of Greek mythology and doesn't hold back, and it left me with a racing heart. TW: War, gore, murder, rape, abuse, alcohol.
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  • Bettie☯
    January 1, 1970
    NetgalleyDescription: From the Booker Prize-winning author of Regeneration and one of our greatest contemporary writers on war comes a re-imagining of the most famous conflict in literature - the legendary Trojan War. When her city falls to the Greeks, Briseis's old life is shattered. She is transformed from queen to captive, from free woman to slave, awarded to the god-like warrior Achilles as a prize of war. And she's not alone. On the same day, and on many others in the course of a long and b NetgalleyDescription: From the Booker Prize-winning author of Regeneration and one of our greatest contemporary writers on war comes a re-imagining of the most famous conflict in literature - the legendary Trojan War. When her city falls to the Greeks, Briseis's old life is shattered. She is transformed from queen to captive, from free woman to slave, awarded to the god-like warrior Achilles as a prize of war. And she's not alone. On the same day, and on many others in the course of a long and bitter war, innumerable women have been wrested from their homes and flung to the fighters. The Trojan War is known as a man's story: a quarrel between men over a woman, stolen from her home and spirited across the sea. But what of the other women in this story, silenced by history? What words did they speak when alone with each other, in the laundry, at the loom, when laying out the dead? In this magnificent historical novel, Pat Barker charts one woman's journey through the chaos of the most famous war in history, as she struggles to free herself and to become the author of her own story.Some deliciously amusing lines, such as: His idea of female beauty was a woman so fat if you slapped her backside in the morning she'd still be jiggling when you got back home for dinner."A splendid re-telling of Homer's Illiad from a female perspective. Fully recommended except for those who are uncomfortable with first person narrative, yet haven't we all got over that phobia after Hilary Mantel?
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  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    In Homer’s Iliad, women do not speak very often, except maybe for the goddesses, and Briseis, the central character of Barker’s novel, has no words at all."'Silence becomes a woman.' Every woman I’ve ever known was brought up on that saying."Here Barker retells the story but from Briseis’ perspective, giving Briseis a voice but also allowing a view into the lives of other women in the story. What we get is a new view of a well-known story that focuses on the damage war does to those left behind. In Homer’s Iliad, women do not speak very often, except maybe for the goddesses, and Briseis, the central character of Barker’s novel, has no words at all."'Silence becomes a woman.' Every woman I’ve ever known was brought up on that saying."Here Barker retells the story but from Briseis’ perspective, giving Briseis a voice but also allowing a view into the lives of other women in the story. What we get is a new view of a well-known story that focuses on the damage war does to those left behind. In the Iliad, women are seen as trophies, taken when a battle is won and the men have been killed and given as rewards or traded when needs be"And I brought up the rear, along with the seven girls from Lesbos, and all the other things."What we see is women surviving slavery whilst at the same time witnessing or waiting to hear of the death of their loved ones - husbands, bothers, sons.Other reviewers have pointed out that there are some anachronisms in Barker’s storytelling. She makes reference to weekend markets in a time before the weekend was invented. She talks of “half a crown” which meant nothing in that time and place. But that doesn’t necessarily take away from the emotion that she is able to communicate. From the blurb and from the opening chapters, you can be forgiven for thinking this is simply going to be Briseis’ story. But Barker soon starts to take breaks from the first person narration to skip to events that Briseis could not have seen told by a third person narrator. A large part of the story becomes an interpretation of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus that concentrates on the “bromance” and potential sexual side of that relationship. And there are significant passages about Achilles’ relationship with his mother. It has to be said that the Achilles presented in Barker’s book is weaker and far more vulnerable that the traditional view and she also seems to have no real interested in the idea of his invulnerability (his death here is not, well, probably not, by a poisoned arrow in the heel). So, if you pick this up thinking it is Briseis’ story and nothing else, you have some surprises coming.This mixing of viewpoints is both a weakness and a strength of the novel. Part of me wishes the narrative had stayed with Briseis all the time and that other events had been included as Briseis learned about them and reacted to them. But, at the same time, the portrayal of Achilles and two of his most important relationships is a fascinating parallel story.This book has been billed as a “feminist Iliad” and I can see where that comes from. Briseis (and other women in the story) struggle to escape from male-dominated stories:"Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles’ story; and I’d failed. Because, make no mistake, this was his story - his anger, his grief, his story. I was angry, I was grieving, but somehow that didn’t matter. Here I was again, waiting for Achilles to decide when it was time for bed, still trapped, still stuck inside his story, and yet with no part to play in it."And as we end (I can say this as you can’t really spoil a story this old), Achilles has died and Briseis heads to a new life:"Once, not so long ago, I tried to walk out of Achilles’ story - and failed. Now my own story begins."But the “feminist Iliad” is an interesting topic. It’s phrase pulled from a review in The Guardian, but other reviewers have commented that this is not a feminist rewrite: Briseis knows and accepts her lesser role in her society. I’m thinking this through because I didn’t think of it as a feminist re-write as I read it, but thinking back over the book and reading other reviews makes me wonder.Overall, a book that is far more complex than I imagined it would be from the blurb, with more exploration of Achilles than I expected and with food for thought at the end.My thanks to Penguin Books (UK) for a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Sana
    January 1, 1970
    EXCUSE ME, BRISEIS FROM THE TROJAN WAR GETTING HER OWN BOOK AND NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT IT? RUDE BUT PLEASE LET THIS BE GOOD :PRAYER HANDS EMOJI: :PRAYER HANDS EMOJI: :PRAYER HANDS EMOJI: ALSO, THAT COVERRRR
  • Cathy
    January 1, 1970
    In The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker sets out to give voice to the women ‘silenced’ in previous versions of the story of the Trojan War.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure she entirely succeeds.  It all starts promisingly as the reader experiences the fall of Lyrnessus to the Greek army, commanded by Agamemnon, through the eyes of Briseis, wife of King Mynes.  The horror of the battle, the dreadful consequences of defeat for the female inhabitants of the city in particular and the aftermath of the In The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker sets out to give voice to the women ‘silenced’ in previous versions of the story of the Trojan War.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure she entirely succeeds.  It all starts promisingly as the reader experiences the fall of Lyrnessus to the Greek army, commanded by Agamemnon, through the eyes of Briseis, wife of King Mynes.  The horror of the battle, the dreadful consequences of defeat for the female inhabitants of the city in particular and the aftermath of the battle are evocatively described.After the fall of the city, Briseis and noble women like her are ‘awarded’ to leading figures in the Greek army in the manner of battle honours or prizes of war.  Because of her status, youth and beauty, Briseis is allocated to the legendary warrior, Achilles, becoming his slave and, effectively, his possession.   Briseis wryly notes that in some cases individual women’s lives are changed for the better following their capture if, that is, they possess youth, beauty and fertility.  ‘One girl, who’d been a slave in Lyrnessus – and a kitchen slave at that, the lowest of the low – was now the concubine of a great lord, while her mistress, a plain, slack-bellied woman near the end of her childbearing years, had to scratch and scrape for food around the fires.’Surprised and unaccustomed to being on public view and unveiled when serving at Achilles’ table, Briseis eventually realises why he is happy for her to be seen by his comrades. ‘Nobody wins a trophy and hides it at the back of a cupboard. You want it where it can be seen, so that other men will envy you.’  The use of the word ‘it’ is relevant as, throughout the book, the author sheds light on the way the women are treated as objects.For example, when Agamemnon later demands Briseis be handed over to him, Achilles’ anger is at being deprived of what he believes is rightfully his. ‘She’s his prize, that’s all, his prize of honour, no more, no less.  It’s nothing to do with the actual girl.’  His response to this perceived dishonour will have far-reaching and tragic consequences.  Later Briseis observes, ‘Men carve meaning into women’s faces; messages addressed to other men’. For example, messages that demonstrate their status or their ability to wield power over others.In parts two and three of the book, however, Briseis’ first hand narrative is interspersed with sections from the point of view of Achilles.  Given his pivotal role in subsequent events and his strange heritage (his father, Peleus, is a mortal but his mother is a sea goddess), I found the power of his unfolding story rather took over the book, especially when it comes to the intense relationship between Achilles and his friend, Patroclus.  Effectively, I felt Briseis was being silenced again.  This was underlined for me when Briseis notes, ‘Once, not so long ago, I tried to walk out of Achilles’ story – and failed. Now, my own story can begin.’  These are the last lines of the book.The book does assume the reader has some prior knowledge of the story of The Trojan War and its key characters.  I had a little but not enough to recognise all the characters, their relationships or their role in the story.  I think a dramatis personae would be a really helpful addition to the book.   I wanted to love The Silence of the Girls and feel thrilled from beginning to end at witnessing the story of the clever, resourceful and resilient Briseis through her eyes and those of other women.  Instead I found that, although I could admire the skilful writing, I felt slightly disappointed at the end, that my high expectations had not been met.I received an advance review copy courtesy of publishers, Hamish Hamilton, and NetGalley, in return for an honest and unbiased review. (3.5 stars)
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  • Scarlett
    January 1, 1970
    One of the hardest 5-star ratings I've ever given! I enjoyed it immensely, I read it in every spare moment, it was so exciting, but... it's not really deserving of being among the best works. I think I will always crave historical fiction and retellings of great myths, especially since Madeline Miller is not giving me what I need. While Circe remains one of the best books I've read this year, this one came as a great consolation, although the quality was not the same. It reminded me so much of a One of the hardest 5-star ratings I've ever given! I enjoyed it immensely, I read it in every spare moment, it was so exciting, but... it's not really deserving of being among the best works. I think I will always crave historical fiction and retellings of great myths, especially since Madeline Miller is not giving me what I need. While Circe remains one of the best books I've read this year, this one came as a great consolation, although the quality was not the same. It reminded me so much of another Miller's work, The Song of Achilles, which was a good thing, but it felt like a rip-off at times. So many similarities! But nevertheless, if you love ancient times and great rich writing style, this is a book you shouldn't miss!Our main protagonist is Briseis, intellectuals would remember her from Iliad, but I most clearly remember her from the movie Troy. Well, the clearest memory is of Brad Pitt, of course. But still, Briseis was the main reason for the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon, so she was pretty important. I loved the idea that I'll get to read her side of the story, since Iliad is famous for being a male-driven epic poem. Women were represented as trophies, a prize to be won and their beauty a token of men's worth. In this book, Briseis doesn't have much power and her inner voice is not really inspiring, but she sounded human and I felt close to her. She was no hero, she was an opportunist, but I find that much more inspiring than girls who jump of a cliff only to save their virtue. That is why I loved Briseis and the fact that Pat Barker made it clear that Briseis is a survivor. Her background story is not really clear, the focus is on her relationship with Achilles, but still, I don't know how good her husband could've been if she was repulsed by Achilles! The greatest warrior of that time! I know, she held a grudge considering he was the enemy, but come on! Maybe I'm still imagining Brad Pitt, but I was surprised with how long she had hateful thoughts towards him. On the other hand, this felt soooo familiar. At times, I felt like I was replaying the exact movie scenes or reading the same book all over again. I am aware of the similarities that needed to be made, but sometimes, it was too much. Achilles was no side character, don't be fooled by the title. A huge part of the story is, once again, dedicated to his relationship with Patroclus. Achilles's grief and their connection, Achilles' battles and aftermath took so much of the story that the title is definitely undeserving. Let me just conclude this with pointing out to everyone that Pat Barker has an amazing style. I just want to put it out there, so please, someone take this book, read it and confirm this to me. This was an advanced edition, provided by Random House and I am so grateful for this reading opportunity!
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  • Crystal King
    January 1, 1970
    I read this following both Emily Wilson's The Odyssey and Madeleine Miller's Circe so I'm in ancient Greek heaven. This is a small slice of the Odyssey story about Briseis, a queen that was a prize of war awarded to the great Achilles. It's a fascinating take on the tale, one that is as gritty as it is beautiful, a book that lacks any sugar-coating and is full of difficult relationships that seem true to the human spirit, both the good and bad. In that, Barker is a true master, really bringing h I read this following both Emily Wilson's The Odyssey and Madeleine Miller's Circe so I'm in ancient Greek heaven. This is a small slice of the Odyssey story about Briseis, a queen that was a prize of war awarded to the great Achilles. It's a fascinating take on the tale, one that is as gritty as it is beautiful, a book that lacks any sugar-coating and is full of difficult relationships that seem true to the human spirit, both the good and bad. In that, Barker is a true master, really bringing home the emotions of being in the midst of a terrible and bloody war and how that takes its toll on everyone within its circle. My lack of five stars (why can't we give 4.5 stars?!) is more about the jarring shift of POV from Briseis to Achilles, which doesn't occur until halfway through the book and it comes without warning. There is also a 1st to 3rd person switch which normally I wouldn't object to, but Barker is so adept at making us feel close to Briseis that when we shift to Achilles' POV and don't have the same depth of understanding of who he is, it feels like a bit of a letdown. That said, I ripped through this book in two nights--I just couldn't put it down. For an alternate take on the same story, also check out Emily Hauser's For The Most Beautiful. Thanks NetGalley, for the chance to check out an early copy of this novel in exchange for a non-biased review.
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  • Book of the Month
    January 1, 1970
    Why I love itby Taylor Jenkins ReidI'm a sucker for a good retelling, especially if it's about the Ancient Greeks. So I admit that I'm the exact right audience for Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls. And yet, it still exceeded my expectations.The Silence of the Girls recounts the story of The Iliad as seen through the eyes of Briseis, a Trojan queen taken as a slave by Achilles as his reward for the sack of Lyrnessus. As the years-long battle wages on, Briseis tries to make sense of her new l Why I love itby Taylor Jenkins ReidI'm a sucker for a good retelling, especially if it's about the Ancient Greeks. So I admit that I'm the exact right audience for Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls. And yet, it still exceeded my expectations.The Silence of the Girls recounts the story of The Iliad as seen through the eyes of Briseis, a Trojan queen taken as a slave by Achilles as his reward for the sack of Lyrnessus. As the years-long battle wages on, Briseis tries to make sense of her new life in the encampments. She bonds with the other women held captive, finds something resembling friendship with Achilles's companion, Patroclus, and soon becomes a pawn between Achilles and King Agamemnon. I knew how it would all shake out from the opening page, but I never understood the story and characters like this.The story of the Trojan War is often narrated with the presumption that the clashing of men's egos and swords is of the highest honor and import. What I love most about this novel is that Pat Barker strips the story of all that glamorization. There are no true "heroes" here. Instead, we are focused on the humanity of the women caught in the cross fire. Briseis may still be tied up in Achilles's story, but she is no longer silent.Read more at: https://www.bookofthemonth.com/the-si...
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  • Annette
    January 1, 1970
    Based on Greek mythology, Homer’s Iliad, and set during the final weeks of the Trojan War, this book brings a story of Briseis. After Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, conquers Troy’s neighboring kingdom, he slaughters all men and captures all women; among them the queen Briseis. She becomes his concubine. At the camp set under the walls of Troy where all captured women stay, Briseis meets Patroclus, Achilles’ closest companion. Patroclus is kind and tells her of Achilles’ childhood. What mad Based on Greek mythology, Homer’s Iliad, and set during the final weeks of the Trojan War, this book brings a story of Briseis. After Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, conquers Troy’s neighboring kingdom, he slaughters all men and captures all women; among them the queen Briseis. She becomes his concubine. At the camp set under the walls of Troy where all captured women stay, Briseis meets Patroclus, Achilles’ closest companion. Patroclus is kind and tells her of Achilles’ childhood. What made him become who he is. She starts seeing both men in a different light.The first part of the book about one-third is the most interesting part, when Briseis arrives at the camp and observes Achilles and gets to know Patroclus. But once there is an argument between Achilles and Agamemnon the story is not as absorbing.There are some parts I didn’t care for, due to dirt and heat there was an issue with rats and at that point it was all about rats – not so interesting. There is some repetition in retelling some parts of the story and also some things happening over and over again.
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    Pat Barker has chosen an intriguing point-of-view to re-imagine THE ILIAD--that of Briseis, Achilles’ concubine. I’m not concerned with keeping the purity of Homer’s text, since Homer’s text, written subsequent to preceding oral traditions, demonstrates variants in characters and events—some minor, some potent. And, in the Western Canon, The Iliad has sparked many subsequent interpretations and re-imaginings. Some of the plot/themes of love, betrayal, friendship, pride, and the treatment of our Pat Barker has chosen an intriguing point-of-view to re-imagine THE ILIAD--that of Briseis, Achilles’ concubine. I’m not concerned with keeping the purity of Homer’s text, since Homer’s text, written subsequent to preceding oral traditions, demonstrates variants in characters and events—some minor, some potent. And, in the Western Canon, The Iliad has sparked many subsequent interpretations and re-imaginings. Some of the plot/themes of love, betrayal, friendship, pride, and the treatment of our enemies during wartime has inspired countless other novels that derive its essence from THE ILIAD. Barker evoked Briseis as privately independent of mind, almost like a modern heroine. Briseis, in Barker’s version, is as close to inwardly liberated as possible to contrast her inescapably enslaved conditions. I do believe that, in better hands, with more shaded prose, it could have worked. But her prose style was too heavy-handed and exposition-heavy, and had a shrilly tinge of adolescence. It felt more contrived, or over-the-top, constantly reminding us of Briseis’ power held in check. Her character, grieving for her murdered family, and passed around like a trophy, would understandably have carried rage and fear. But, in Barker’s version, Briseis conveyed the conflict--of her hidden persona with her necessarily outward servility--as a one-note repetition. I’m giving Barker props for writing a plot-generous page-turner, despite its flaws. She keeps the action going and the plot central. Briseis’ POV naturally limits the reader to what her character sees and hears (although, when it is convenient, Barker does use third person POV). For example, we don’t see the return of Hector by Priam to Troy, and most of the interventions of the gods are absent from the story, which doesn’t detract. Yet I do expect that the narrative of a classical text, one that is derived from a rich history of oral and performance traditions, (and one with many subsequent reinterpretations) to be literary.Perhaps I expected more, as Barker is a Booker Prize recipient. So I was surprised when this book read as more of a telegraphed and nearly Young Adult version (except for the graphic violence). I expected more subtle, allusive, poetic prose, although I do contend that there were select scenes with Achilles and his goddess mother that had a poetic lilt to them, and some of the descriptions of land and sea, and the border between them, showed me a glimpse of Barker’s more refined talents. But these were the exception rather than the rule. For me, there was minimal nuance or breathing space between the lines.The prose may not be a deal-breaker for some readers, so I urge others to make up their own minds. It has a definable arc, a forward flow, and a decent rhythm. Did it capture the essence of Homer or his story? For me, it felt derivative—and not in the inevitable way that stories with plot and themes inspired by THE ILIAD would necessarily be. Instead, it was corny; rather than expand on its predecessor (especially by rebooting with a female slave’s point of view), it diminished it (for me) by relying on familiar novels of desperate women in similar situations.
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  • Lindz
    January 1, 1970
    In a lot of ways this was an easy novel to sink into. I writing is strong, and I am very comfortable with the story of Achilles. For something I was under the assumption (no idea how I got to this conclusion) that this was a book that would vear away from the Warriors of Troy and hang out in the background a little. But no Achilles and Patroclus' light is too strong for Barker not to go there. And I understand their relationship, no matter how you see it, is the most interesting part of the Illi In a lot of ways this was an easy novel to sink into. I writing is strong, and I am very comfortable with the story of Achilles. For something I was under the assumption (no idea how I got to this conclusion) that this was a book that would vear away from the Warriors of Troy and hang out in the background a little. But no Achilles and Patroclus' light is too strong for Barker not to go there. And I understand their relationship, no matter how you see it, is the most interesting part of the Illiad. I just thought that Barker was going to do something different. From the first 40 pages I was primed, yes this will be a different story about Troy. The set up is brilliant. This appatently was not going to be a novel you feel safe in. The heat the cries and sounds of battle, the terror of the knowledge you will be a slave, it is just the waiting game, and then Achilles comes along. Achilles and Patrolus is still Achilles and Patrolus even if it is told from Briseis's point of view. This is a easy novel to sink into. It just didn't do what I wanted.
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  • Eleanor Slater
    January 1, 1970
    A brilliant retelling of the seige of Troy from the perspective of Briseis the Queen of Lyrnessus. We witness as her city falls to the Greek army, led by Achilles, as her brothers are murdered, her husband killed and the city ransacked. Briseis and the other women become slaves to the conquerors and their lives and loves, their humanity and sacrifices that are silent in the orginal tale are brilliantly spoken by Pat Barker.
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  • Anna Eklund
    January 1, 1970
    The women in Homer’s Iliad are hardly ever heard to speak. We are not privy to their thoughts, their feelings, their anguish, given to us in their own words. Until now. The Silence of the Girls bears moments of the Trojan War through the eyes of the female captives at the mercy of the men who have slaughtered their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, as they carve out new lives for themselves in the wake devastation. The focus of Barker’s novel is Briseis, through whose eyes we see, up close, the The women in Homer’s Iliad are hardly ever heard to speak. We are not privy to their thoughts, their feelings, their anguish, given to us in their own words. Until now. The Silence of the Girls bears moments of the Trojan War through the eyes of the female captives at the mercy of the men who have slaughtered their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, as they carve out new lives for themselves in the wake devastation. The focus of Barker’s novel is Briseis, through whose eyes we see, up close, the rift between Agamemnon and Achilles, the bond between Achilles and Patroclus, the complex, beautiful support and survival the women weave together as assuredly as they weave their famous cloth for their captors. Barker’s novel is a masterpiece of resilience, determination, fury, healing, and complicated, completely human characters.
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  • Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]
    January 1, 1970
    ARC received in exchange for an honest review - thank you! Normally, I only give 5-star ratings out to books I'm going to read over, and over, and over again. But I probably won't ever again touch The Silence of the Girls. Not because it was bad, but the opposite: it was too good. I felt like I was mourning and despairing and struggling and fighting alongside Briseis herself, and that's not something I want to go through again.But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with an overview of th ARC received in exchange for an honest review - thank you! Normally, I only give 5-star ratings out to books I'm going to read over, and over, and over again. But I probably won't ever again touch The Silence of the Girls. Not because it was bad, but the opposite: it was too good. I felt like I was mourning and despairing and struggling and fighting alongside Briseis herself, and that's not something I want to go through again.But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with an overview of the... PLOT This book covers my most beloved story in all of classical literature - the tale of Achilles, 'half beast, half god,' and his faithful companion Patroclus. It's not really their story though. Not as such. It's the tale of Briseis, once the wife and daughter of kings, now a slave-girl plucked out by Achilles as his war prize and a bone of contention between him and Agamemnon. Super unpopular opinion: I don't believe classics and mythology can really be spoiled... Yeah, I know, literally everyone disagrees with me. Sorry. STOP READING NOW if you don't want to know that (view spoiler)[Achilles and Patroclus both die, the former avenging the latter's death, leaving Briseis to be pawned off on one of the other Greek soldiers. (hide spoiler)] Such is the lot of women in war. In fact, one of the book's recurrent themes is how frequently men decide women's fates without them - Briseis's husband is chosen for her by Achilles without her even knowing. The title manifests itself a lot in the horrifically patriarchal world of Ancient Greece. There's also nothing to spoil if you've read Madeline Miller's beautifully haunting rendition of this tale, The Song of Achilles, another 5-star read. CHARACTERS This is an interesting one. Briseis is, above all, a survivalist; while we see other Trojan women choose to commit suicide rather than suffer the Greek yoke, that's not for her. She'll live - but she won't revel in her mode of living as other women might. She spreads her legs because she has to, not because she's chosen it as her method of attaining power and security. Unsurprisingly, this is a deeply feminist book, reminding me often of The Handmaid's Tale. A huge variety of women and their responses to difficult circumstances are depicted, all with sympathy and without judgement, ranging from beautiful Helen to Uza the whore. Briseis is undoubtedly strong - but that strength lies in her ability to live on despite what she's seen done to her family, rather than physical feats. And now, Achilles. Always the star, even in someone else's show. His portrayal here is far more complex and nuanced than in Miller, who perhaps shows him in too romantic a light. Here he's courteous and brutal, arrogant and insecure; the only constant, as always, is that Patroclus is part of his own soul. We are however left in doubt as to whether their relationship is ever truly a sexual one. There's no love lost between Achilles and Briseis, but over time a grudging respect does grow through their their shared love for Patroclus. Patroclus sadly doesn't get too much of a look-in; while his dissatisfaction at being used as Achilles's messenger boy is hinted at, this is never explored. Perhaps rightly - after all, Briseis doesn't much care about understanding their relationship dynamics, and this is her story.As ever, Agamemnon is a DICK. WRITING The story is told predominantly from Briseis's perspective, with a few third-person snippets from Achilles. Crucially, these snippets never come at moments one would think important to the story. For example, Patroclus and Achilles's dramatic deaths are glossed over; that's men's stuff, and the girls have no part in it. Instead we're treated to the world of concubines, slave-girls and washerwomen, the ones left behind in the camps when the men go off to fight. The writing is a strange mixture of coarse and lyrical. Grief and loss are spoken about in a deeply eloquent way - but we also get incredibly detailed mentions of blood, urine, faeces, semen, sweat and vomit. And, of course, death. Barker's writing is so intense it's not too difficult to imagine the horrors of a millennia-ago war. In fact, the writing felt almost suffocatingly intimate. While I can't see myself reading this book again, it's a must-read for anyone in search of more feminist literature.[Blog]
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  • Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]
    January 1, 1970
    Normally, I only give 5-star ratings out to books I'm going to read over, and over, and over again. But I probably won't ever again touch The Silence of the Girls. Not because it was bad, but the opposite: it was too good. I felt like I was mourning and despairing and struggling and fighting alongside Briseis herself, and that's not something I want to go through again.But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with an overview of the...PLOT This book covers my most beloved story in all of cla Normally, I only give 5-star ratings out to books I'm going to read over, and over, and over again. But I probably won't ever again touch The Silence of the Girls. Not because it was bad, but the opposite: it was too good. I felt like I was mourning and despairing and struggling and fighting alongside Briseis herself, and that's not something I want to go through again.But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with an overview of the...PLOT This book covers my most beloved story in all of classical literature - the tale of Achilles, 'half beast, half god,' and his faithful companion Patroclus. It's not really their story though. Not as such. It's the tale of Briseis, once the wife and daughter of kings, now a slave-girl plucked out by Achilles as his war prize and a bone of contention between him and Agamemnon. Super unpopular opinion: I don't believe classics and mythology can really be spoiled... Yeah, I know, literally everyone disagrees with me. Sorry. STOP READING NOW if you don't want to know that Achilles and Patroclus both die, the former avenging the latter's death, leaving Briseis to be pawned off on one of the other Greek soldiers. Such is the lot of women in war. In fact, one of the book's recurrent themes is how frequently men decide women's fates without them - Briseis's husband is chosen for her by Achilles without her even knowing. The title manifests itself a lot in the horrifically patriarchal world of Ancient Greece. There's also nothing to spoil if you've read Madeline Miller's beautifully haunting rendition of this tale, The Song of Achilles, another 5-star read. CHARACTERS This is an interesting one. Briseis is, above all, a survivalist; while we see other Trojan women choose to commit suicide rather than suffer the Greek yoke, that's not for her. She'll live - but she won't revel in her mode of living as other women might. She spreads her legs because she has to, not because she's chosen it as her method of attaining power and security. Unsurprisingly, this is a deeply feminist book, reminding me often of The Handmaid's Tale. A huge variety of women and their responses to difficult circumstances are depicted, all with sympathy and without judgement, ranging from beautiful Helen to Uza the whore. Briseis is undoubtedly strong - but that strength lies in her ability to live on despite what she's seen done to her family, rather than physical feats. And now, Achilles. Always the star, even in someone else's show. His portrayal here is far more complex and nuanced than in Miller, who perhaps shows him in too romantic a light. Here he's courteous and brutal, arrogant and insecure; the only constant, as always, is that Patroclus is part of his own soul. We are however left in doubt as to whether their relationship is ever truly a sexual one. There's no love lost between Achilles and Briseis, but over time a grudging respect does grow through their their shared love for Patroclus. Patroclus sadly doesn't get too much of a look-in; while his dissatisfaction at being used as Achilles's messenger boy is hinted at, this is never explored. Perhaps rightly - after all, Briseis doesn't much care about understanding their relationship dynamics, and this is her story.As ever, Agamemnon is a DICK.WRITING The story is told predominantly from Briseis's perspective, with a few third-person snippets from Achilles. Crucially, these snippets never come at moments one would think important to the story. For example, Patroclus and Achilles's dramatic deaths are glossed over; that's men's stuff, and the girls have no part in it. Instead we're treated to the world of concubines, slave-girls and washerwomen, the ones left behind in the camps when the men go off to fight. The writing is a strange mixture of coarse and lyrical. Grief and loss are spoken about in a deeply eloquent way - but we also get incredibly detailed mentions of blood, urine, faeces, semen, sweat and vomit. And, of course, death. Barker's writing is so intense it's not too difficult to imagine the horrors of a millennia-ago war. In fact, the writing felt almost suffocatingly intimate. While I can't see myself reading this book again, it's a must-read for anyone in search of more feminist literature.
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  • Rachel (rachandbooks)
    January 1, 1970
    Not totally sure on the rating yet. I may be rounding up. I need to think on it! RTC
  • Carrie (brightbeautifulthings)
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free e-ARC through NetGalley from the publishers at Doubleday. Trigger warnings: rape, death, child death, slavery, violence.The Silence of the Girls is the story of the Trojan war told from the perspective of Briseis, a queen turned slave when the Greeks raid her city. She’s given to Achilles as a prize, no more human than stacks of gold or fine cloth. When a plague forces Agamemnon to give up his own slave girl, he demands Briseis in her place. This is not a love story, or even a I received a free e-ARC through NetGalley from the publishers at Doubleday. Trigger warnings: rape, death, child death, slavery, violence.The Silence of the Girls is the story of the Trojan war told from the perspective of Briseis, a queen turned slave when the Greeks raid her city. She’s given to Achilles as a prize, no more human than stacks of gold or fine cloth. When a plague forces Agamemnon to give up his own slave girl, he demands Briseis in her place. This is not a love story, or even a story of war, glory, and heroes. This is the Trojan war told by the girls in the margins, where the Greeks are invaders at best and monsters and brutes at worst.I wanted to like this more because I love the idea of telling the story of the Trojan war through the voices that are usually silenced. Mythology (and history) has a tendency to gloss over the nastier aspects of ancient Greek warfare, including the forced slavery and rape of the conquered women and the absolute decimation of the male population, even the babies and children. It’s an ambitious story Barker has set herself up to tell, and she isn’t quite up to the task. While the novel does address these aspects, it flinches away from the worst of them. This certainly makes reading about extremely difficult subjects easier, but… I’m not sure it should be easy. The novel doesn’t have the grit it takes to tell this story. I got just as much sense of them from Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles (admittedly, very tough competition), and the story is a lot more enjoyable.I don’t care much for Briseis’s perspective, particularly in the first half of the novel. So few things actually happen on the page. It’s seemingly endless pages of her thoughts and reactions, but there’s little dialogue or action. The novel tells us what to think rather than presenting events and allowing us to draw our own conclusions. In contrast to Briseis’s stately, measured narrative, the dialogue of the other characters is awkward, modern British and filled with slang and swearing. If this is an attempt to show the stark differences between the Greeks and the Trojans, then mission accomplished, but it mostly comes off as utterly at odds with the rest of the narration.The structure is also somewhat unwieldy. There are strangely placed questions in italics where it seems like Briseis might be speaking to someone, but it’s oddly explained later as her talking to the “voices” in her head and then rarely mentioned again. …What? I don’t understand why they’re included at all, since they bring little to the story or the overall structure. Part II shockingly switches to Achilles’s perspective, which seems contrary to the novel’s entire agenda. It may be that, no matter who else was there, this was always going to be Achilles’s story, and he takes over it as he does everything else, but that seems like a generous interpretation. His scenes bring more of the landmarks of the Trojan war to the page, but the book strangely skips out on some of the important ones, like Hector’s death. I have no sense of why Barker included some and not others. Then there are sections where it’s hard to tell who the narrator is; it might be Patroclus, or it might be some weird version of third person omniscient. In order to truly tell this story from the margins, I would have stayed in Briseis’s perspective or branched out to other slave girls rather than include the traditional heroes.The characters aren’t bad, but they aren’t wonderful. I think Barker underestimates the levels of agency or power that Briseis might have, even as a slave, and she comes off somewhat flat at times. Her characterization of some slave girls as “genuinely indifferent” strikes me as patently false, not to mention dehumanizing. Achilles is little more than an angry, overgrown child at times, but apparently the one thing every interpretation can agree on is that Patroclus is an angel and everyone in Achilles’s camp loves him. There’s a missed opportunity for more character development between him and Briseis and, again, I have a better sense of their relationship from TSOA. Similarly, the relationship development between Briseis and Achilles comes too late in the novel to make a real impact. My overall impression is that The Silence of the Girls fails to live up to its potential, but the potential is definitely there.I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.
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  • Evie Braithwaite
    January 1, 1970
    I went into this story having never read either Homer's The Iliad or anything by Pat Barker. However, that didn't stop me from being instantly captivated by this retelling.The Silence of the Girls is told from the perspective of former queen Briseis who is captured and descends to become Achilles' prize of war. In grand epics, women have no opinion, they have no power, they have no voice. However, Barker fills this vacuum and offers readers a new perspective of the story and its brutal heroes. B I went into this story having never read either Homer's The Iliad or anything by Pat Barker. However, that didn't stop me from being instantly captivated by this retelling.The Silence of the Girls is told from the perspective of former queen Briseis who is captured and descends to become Achilles' prize of war. In grand epics, women have no opinion, they have no power, they have no voice. However, Barker fills this vacuum and offers readers a new perspective of the story and its brutal heroes. Briseis becomes an unknowing catalyst for Troy's eventual downfall with the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon, and Barker succeeds in telling her side of the story; fearful, observant and angry. She writes of the sexual and psychological abuse which is so often normalised in male-dominant stories and by no means romanticises their suffering. "She was like a windflower trembling on its slender stem, so fragile you feel it can’t possibly survive the blasts that shake it, though it survives them all."The reason I gave this story 4 stars was down to the jarring shift of perspectives. After the first part, the story begins telling the overarching story of the heroes and the shift from first to the third perspective comes without warning. Nonetheless, the intercut of Briseis' account with that of Achilles' is interesting. He's not only a brutal warrior but a complex and troubled man. It's as if a part of him has died as he experiences the overwhelming anguish at the death of Patroclus. Briseis' anger and grief, swallowed down and unvoiced, is therefore juxtaposed with Achilles' own violent outpouring, consumed by conflict. Barker's comparisons don't stop here. We identify a contrast between the vulgar talk of male characters and the quieter conversations between women. She explores not only the brutal battlefield of war but the paralleling battlefield located in the hospital tents, sleeping quarters, spaces women inhabit. She juxtaposes the lavish tapestries, grand feasts and gold plates with the overcrowded huts and rats, ultimately leading to the plague.All of this captures the nature of the epic as well as the quiet moments of beauty, as she brings the Greek encampment to life. The story ends with a glimmer of hope, Briseis is a survivor. She stayed strong throughout her suffering rather than throwing herself off a cliff to save her virtue, as was the case for other women. This was a quick read for me, instantly gripped by the lyrical language. The Silence of the Girls is a song of grief, anger and survival. You don't need prior knowledge of Homer's epic before reading this stunning story and I recommend everyone gives this retelling a read.Thank you NetGalley and Penguin UK for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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  • Sid Nuncius
    January 1, 1970
    I thought The Silence Of The Girls was quite outstanding. I wasn’t sure whether I would like it, but it turned out to be readable, insightful, humane and by the end was utterly spellbinding.(If spoiler warnings are needed for a famous 2500-year-old story, be aware that I make reference below to some events in the book.)This is the story of the end of the Trojan War from the perspective of Briseis, a Trojan noblewoman captured in battle and given to Achilles as a prize of honour. Largely narrated I thought The Silence Of The Girls was quite outstanding. I wasn’t sure whether I would like it, but it turned out to be readable, insightful, humane and by the end was utterly spellbinding.(If spoiler warnings are needed for a famous 2500-year-old story, be aware that I make reference below to some events in the book.)This is the story of the end of the Trojan War from the perspective of Briseis, a Trojan noblewoman captured in battle and given to Achilles as a prize of honour. Largely narrated by Briseis herself, this is a brilliant portrait of what it is to be captured and to become someone’s property; to be referred to as “it”, to be silent and perform domestic duties, to be paraded in front of the men as a prize and to be forced to have sex with the man who killed her brothers and destroyed her home. There is also an excellent picture of the reality of the fighting and of the Greek camp on the plains of Troy, and it is all done in a wonderfully human, readable voice so it never becomes turgid or worthy. As a tiny example, of Achilles’s legendary invulnerability, “Invulnerable to wounds? His whole body was a mass of scars. Believe me, I do know.”Much of the book is, of course, the story of Achilles and it’s a wonderfully insightful study of a proud, emotionally illiterate warrior’s reaction to insult and then to grief. The almost adolescent sulking and its effect are evoked with real understanding, the death of Patroclus is superbly done and very moving, and the portrait of Achilles’s grief and rage quite enthralling. We get a chilling picture of what his subsequent “heroism” on the battlefield really means, and the visit of Priam to plead for Hector’s body was both deeply touching and utterly gripping with Briseis’s voice and perspective binding it all together.I was hooked from quite early in the book and for the closing third I was completely enthralled. I think that Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy is among the finest literary achievements of the last half century, so I don’t speak lightly when I say that The Silence Of The Girls is one of her very best. I very much hope that it will be a contender for major literary prizes and I can recommend it very warmly indeed.(My thanks to Penguin Books for an ARC via Netgalley.)
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  • Martina
    January 1, 1970
    *4.5*I was provided with a physical ARC of this book by the publishing house, Penguin Random House UK, in exchange of an honest review."The silence of the girls" is an original retelling of the Iliad from the point of view of a woman, Briseis. This is such a novelty because the Iliad is known as a story of heroes. Great Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Patroclus, Hector, Paris... All men. And what about women? What about their lives, thoughts and voices?Finally, this book gives a proper voice to B *4.5*I was provided with a physical ARC of this book by the publishing house, Penguin Random House UK, in exchange of an honest review."The silence of the girls" is an original retelling of the Iliad from the point of view of a woman, Briseis. This is such a novelty because the Iliad is known as a story of heroes. Great Achilles, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Patroclus, Hector, Paris... All men. And what about women? What about their lives, thoughts and voices?Finally, this book gives a proper voice to Briseis and the other women who are victims of a patriarchal and violent society.So, following Briseis' point of view we retrace the story of the Trojan War. She's a queen, she's a woman, a girl, and now she's just a slave given to Achilles as a prize for killing a huge number of enemies. I don't want to spoil anything of this book, so I won't say furthermore. But I really recommend it to all of you. This is a powerful book and it's really important to read it in times like ours. We, women, are still fighting to make our voices heard. This book gives voices to these ancient women, it highlights new point of views, it makes you discover other nuances of this incredible characters we all know. Pat Barker is an incredible writer. I loved her writing style. Briseis' thoughts were so concrete, fascinating and realistic. It was like as I was her mind.Thanks to the Penguin Random House Uk to have given me the opportunity to read this book before its releases.
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  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    I was initially attracted by the premise of this story, an tale of war, traditionally told from a point of view of power, strength, and masculinity told instead as experienced by a woman. Briseis had been married by her father to the king of a city near Troy. During the war the city fell to the Greeks, the men all slaughtered and the females taken as trophies. They know what their fate will be, they expect it, and expect to have no say, no voice. Briseis is given as slave, as bedgirl and waiter I was initially attracted by the premise of this story, an tale of war, traditionally told from a point of view of power, strength, and masculinity told instead as experienced by a woman. Briseis had been married by her father to the king of a city near Troy. During the war the city fell to the Greeks, the men all slaughtered and the females taken as trophies. They know what their fate will be, they expect it, and expect to have no say, no voice. Briseis is given as slave, as bedgirl and waiter to Achilles, the Greek warrior and this is her tale. We see the anti hero Achilles as she saw him, the Trojan war, fought by men over a woman who is never given a voice, mirrored in the fight over Briseis by Achilles and Agamemnon, leading to a tragic end but also to victory. I found the book to be very readable, the action drawing me on to keep reading and the characters, first Briseis but then also others, among the Greeks as well as the Trojan slave women, being those you could warm to. The historical setting and mores such as religion and hospitality were drawn and explained without any distracting didactic passages. The subject matter included violence and rape, but while the horror of both was made clear neither was gratuitous nor gloried in. This was a good read, and despite the topic was also an enjoyable one. I received an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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  • Crystal Brown
    January 1, 1970
    As someone who read and enjoyed Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles and is an avid lover of Greek mythology--any mythology, really, I could not wait to get my hands on Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls.Reading is always an emotional act for me. It's why I prefer fiction to non-fiction. Books about Achilles just slay me. I already know how it ends. I already know who Achilles is and who he is not, but I always experience a bleak hope that perhaps this time is different.Spoiler alert: this As someone who read and enjoyed Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles and is an avid lover of Greek mythology--any mythology, really, I could not wait to get my hands on Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls.Reading is always an emotional act for me. It's why I prefer fiction to non-fiction. Books about Achilles just slay me. I already know how it ends. I already know who Achilles is and who he is not, but I always experience a bleak hope that perhaps this time is different.Spoiler alert: this time is not different, but it is phenomenal.This is the first retelling I have read that is written from a female perspective and Briseis is a solid choice. She is pragmatic and passionate in equal measure. She seems almost disconnected from the events as she relates them, but over time, as her relationships with Patroclus and Achilles develop, she seems to war with herself as she becomes invested in her new life, but still carries a hatred for what has been done to her and those who have done it.What is there to say about Achilles that hasn't been said? Far more intelligent minds than mine have ruminated over him for centuries. I will say that I always experience Achilles as a punch in the gut. I want him to be more than he is, and yet that is what is always so compelling to me. Don't we all want to be better than we are?As far as the writing goes, I don't have a single complaint. It is solid and much of its poignancy is derived from the starkness of the prose. This is not a retelling that shies away from the harsh truths of ruthless war and men who think themselves gods. I won't get political, but this is a timely novel that seeks to give voice to women--who are largely rendered silent through history--and it does it well. Thank you to Doubleday for providing an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Expected publication: September 4th 20185/5 Stars
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  • Gianna
    January 1, 1970
    I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.A compelling, captivating story, The Silence of the Girls is a tragic retelling of one of the most famous stories of the ancient world : the Trojan War. After her city falls to the Greeks and is burnt down to ashes, Briseis, the wife of Lyrnesuss's king, is held captive along the rest of the womenfolk, and becomes a slave. As her luck has it, she is given as a prize to the very same man that kille I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.A compelling, captivating story, The Silence of the Girls is a tragic retelling of one of the most famous stories of the ancient world : the Trojan War. After her city falls to the Greeks and is burnt down to ashes, Briseis, the wife of Lyrnesuss's king, is held captive along the rest of the womenfolk, and becomes a slave. As her luck has it, she is given as a prize to the very same man that killed her brothers and husband : the infamous Achilles. And so starts the story of one of the most time-consuming and epic wars of all time. And war is believed to be a matter for the Man. Women are to be silent. But this time we see it all through the eyes of a woman ; a slave woman, nonetheless, and one who used to be the wife of a king. What will life hold for Briseis and the rest of Lyrnessus's women from now on? As more and more cities fall under the Greeks, more and more women will have to meet this same fate. But what are the women thinking? What do they talk about in hushed tones when their chores are done? What do they share with one another? This is the women's war, the things they witnessed, the things they thought, and their own struggles with their fate.The Silence of the Girls is such a multi-dimensional, tragic and yet compelling story, that it is quite hard to properly describe every aspect of it. This is a story about the horrors of war, the pain behind the supposed glory of fighting, and all that is left behind. Focused particularly on the women, the story gives the reader a glimpse into the fate that awaited the women of cities that fell into the enemy's hands. Death is not always the worst of fates, as the Trojan women teach us. Through the eyes of Briseis, we follow the women's fates through the pain, anger, humiliation and fear they have to endure ; and, above all else, the objectification that roots even in their own minds. But it is not only the story of the captives' mind. Briseis sees it all : day in and day out, she listens and watches everything she can. And that is how we follow the story of Achilles, to an extent that even his comrades don't. You can practically feel the anger reeking from the great warrior, you can feel the love for the friend he considers a brother, Patroclus, and follow his life through the last parts of the Trojan War. The story is incredibly well researched and accurate. The author has followed the story of Iliad to an impressive point, transferring to us not only the thoughts of the heroes, but also the feelings that must have been present in such events. But, above all else, we have to remember that this is the story of the women, and listen closely to everything they have to say.
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