The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls

A Novel

Book - 2018
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"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 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. -- adapted from publisher info
Publisher: New York :, Doubleday,, [2018]
Edition: First United States edition
ISBN: 9780385544214
0385544219
Branch Call Number: F Barker
Characteristics: 293 pages ;,25 cm

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jswense
May 17, 2019

It is possible that this book suffered from my high expectations more than anything. The concept was fascinating but I found the actual text lacking. For a book ostensibly about women it spends an awful lot of time focused on the men. I came away from the book feeling as if I still knew/felt very little about the supposed main character.
The choice to have some of the chapters from Achilles's point of view really detracted from the feminist retelling. I can understand it would be difficult to explain all of the plot points from Briseis's perspective but that's the point of a retelling, to challenge readers to see a different perspective of a famous story. I also did not like her portrayal of Achilles overall.
Mostly, I found myself wanting to reread The Song of Achilles. If you haven't read that I would recommend skipping The Silence of the Girls and reading that masterpiece instead.

h
heavenne
Apr 17, 2019

This is a retelling of The Iliad - no need to read it however a bit of the basics of it would help you understand this book more, just for background information.

It can be a rather difficult read. Not to say it’s hard to understand, but more of the detailed subject matter. It’s shocking to read when these women are going through an era where war is prevalent, and the best outcome for them is to be a trophy, instead of a slave. (Although, those two terms are pretty much the same thing if you think about it) It’s scary, and eye opening at the same time. These women go through a lot of trauma and Briseis has it slightly better than the other women out there (which says a lot). They’re pretty much treated like cattle and nothing could be done with it. Unfortunately this is the norm during war.

The relationship between Briseis and Achilles was interesting. Despite the conqueror and war trophy titles, it develops and evolves as Achilles goes though life changing events through the novel. You do however, have a heart for Patroclus. He seemed more human and his friendship with Briseis is what might have kept her going through all this time in the book. In a sense too, she also benefited from being with Achilles (albeit, not her choice)

This is definitely word a read through if you’re interested in Greek Mythology and retellings this is worth the read, despite the slow but steady pace. The retelling of the Iliad from Briseis’ point of view is a good one.

j
JLMason
Feb 28, 2019

Much has been made about this retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of the women, enslaved to serve the Greek army camped on the plains of the battlefield below the city of Troy. This remarkable story of the ages is a hard-to-put-down, well-told tale about men and women in war, where the formal battles are a backdrop to the personal conflicts, fears, and needs of individuals surviving despite difficult, horrible circumstances. The Economist rated this as one of its best fiction books of 2018.

h
hamerkop
Jan 14, 2019

Pat Barker is a first rate story teller with a developed understanding of "war" and the personal costs to individuals caught up in it. In this effort she reimagines the Iliad as experienced by an enslaved Trojan woman, and Achilles, and succeeds marvelously.

u
uncommonreader
Dec 23, 2018

A very interesting and enjoyable read providing the perspective of a woman who went from Queen to slave. It was a little disconcerting at times because of the many anachronisms, but I think that these whiffs of modern times were to link the story to the present day.

SnoIsleLib_LindseyA Oct 27, 2018

Reading this book reminded me of how terrible the movie "Troy" was, and how amazing an interpretation of "The Iliad" can be when it's done right.

Heroes are not infallible. From the point of view of Briseis and the other enslaved girls and women of Troy, there is nothing heroic about Achilles and his men. Barker exposes the weaknesses of these men, and she doesn't hold anything back. There are a few chapters from Achilles' point of view (in third person, interestingly). Some might argue that this takes away from Briseis's story, but it helped convey Achilles' grief over the loss of Patroclus.

This book is written in a literary style with a few historical anachronisms that caught me off guard (I recall a scene where a woman jabs her fist in the air and cries "yes!", which read modern to me). It was a pure pleasure to listen to on audio.

JCLEmmaF Oct 25, 2018

A book of grief and survival and absence. The Silence of Girls tells the story history has silenced, following the young women behind the battles of Troy. Reinstates the violent complexity of existing as a woman. I am both proud and daunted. Finished this in one sitting. One of my favorites, though not an uplifting read in the slightest (which is to trigger warn rape, violence, and self harm)

m
msummers57
Oct 07, 2018

I'm not a fan of Pat Barker but this was good.

Very much in the vein of Le Guin's Lavinia and Miller's Circe.

e
EmilyEm
Sep 18, 2018

The ancient world of Homer’s 'Iliad' is this book’s setting. It paints a picture of the girls who become enslaved as spoils of war, particularly Briseis, a king’s wife who is selected by the legendary Achilles as his concubine.

Very readable. Certainly a departure for Barker. Choices, survival and loyalties—an interesting range of emotions and passions to consider. Had to do a little re-reading about the Trojan War. Not the best of time for women.

JCLGreggW Jul 10, 2018

A lushly-written, introspective novel based on Homer's Iliad, this looks at the events of the war through Briseis, a slave and a former Trojan princess, the subject of the battle of wills between Achilles and the Greek general Agamemnon. At times difficult to read due to the subject matter, Barker's novel is nevertheless dazzling.

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