The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls

A Novel

eBook - 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 of 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 individuals lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.
Publisher: 2018
ISBN: 9780385544221
Call Number: OverDrive ebook
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc


From Library Staff

This is the Greek Camp of The Iliad, as experienced by the captured women during the final weeks of the Trojan War. Briseis watches and waits for the war's end. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, looted her city and murdered her family and husband. She becomes A... Read More »

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Jan 09, 2020

In this re-telling of Homer’s "The Illiad," we are promised the female perspective. During the end stages of the Trojan war, Queen Briseis sees her husband and brothers killed by Achilles before she is awarded to him as a war trophy/sex slave. But I was disappointed that the focus was not on the women – individual characters, their personal histories, how they were dealing with their captivity, a sense of friendship (or not) amongst them. No, it was simply the Trojan War, its key players and camp life as seen through Briseis’ eyes and sensibilities. A ton of gore and slaughter if you’re into that sort of thing.

Oct 31, 2019

a female slave's view of the Iliad

Sep 28, 2019

Patriarchy is not only amongst the Greek gods, but also in the perspectives of the storytellers. We hear about the heroes in the Trojan War, we hear about goddesses and witches taking sides, but what about the mortal women? Casualties of the Trojan War, they become dehumanized, prizes of the victors.⁣

Briseis the protagonist, captured and awarded to Achilles when her city falls to the Greeks, is known as the symbol of honor that causes starts a chain of events in the Iliad. Yet who is she beyond the symbol? ⁣

Pat Barker examines these women and the “heroes” in question. Some women are martyrs, other struck numb, still others fall in love with their captors. Some captors are kind, others loyal, some cowardly. Barker creates characters that keep the reader on her toes, because although she knows their fates, she becomes too attached to them to remain detached.⁣

I cannot help but compare this retelling to Circe, which I just finished 2 days ago. If you look back to my previous post, you will see that I have given its first half 2.5 stars. I had attributed my boredom to the fact that I knew the characters’ endings already, but I still enjoyed The Silence while knowing its ending. I did some further analysis:

- The stories in the first half of Circe are more of a chronology for us to get to know the protagonist. The episodes are loosely related and not explored enough, so the reader is unable to form an attachment to anyone. ⁣

- Circe the character is not developed enough in the first half of the book. She is too passive and while Briseis is also passive, she explains her mindset in detail while Circe just watches.

Anyway, if you are a fan of Greek mythology and retellings, or just want a story on compassion, pain, and humanity, this is your read. Highly recommended. ⁣

For more book reviews and aesthetic pictures, visit me on Instagram @ RandomStuffIRead !

Sep 04, 2019

Good to have the woman's viewpoint .
Would have helped to have read some background.
Thanks to those who offered a couple of references.

Jul 29, 2019

Tells a gripping story and with a voice not heard before

Jun 30, 2019

The illiad's Trojan War from a woman's perspective. As a former royal female Briseis is a prize awarded to legendary warrior Archilles. Her view of the Trojan War from a female slaves perspective is engaging and reminds us that their is more to war than the victor's version of events

Jun 03, 2019

Nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019.

Jun 03, 2019

Told from the point of view of a captured Queen that was given as reward for battle we are given a look into the camp of the greeks durning the war of Troy. The only part that is odd about this book is that our narrator was in Troy as the battle to retrieve Helen had begun. How'd did she get out? Things of that nature make you think along the way, but you also get a sense that even though captive and fighting against her feelings she does become emotionally attached to the greeks. Even though she rages mentally about how any could fall "in love" with those that took bother her family and burned her city to ash. It is good and give a nice fresh look at an old war.

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.

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.

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Apr 06, 2020

In the same vein as Madeline Miller's "The Song of Achilles," Pat Barker retells the Homeric tale from the perspective of Briseis, the princess of Troy taken as a prize by Achilles. As she narrates the daily interactions with her captor and fellow slaves, it becomes clear to the reader that this is not the romance of rape that has weighed heavily in historic portrayals of the Iliad. The infamous quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon over her features as the event that drives the story, but this book is primarily a character sketch meant to parallel feminist issues that women still face some three thousand years later.


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