Barker’s powerfully haunting and gut-wrenching retelling of The Iliad gives a voice to those made powerless by war. The Silence of the Girls will stand the test of time and custom and is a very grim reminder about what war and slavery entail. And it is more pertinent than ever! Recommended By Sheila N., Powells.com
What impressed me most about this absorbing novel is how Pat Barker counters the grand scale and heroic mythos of The Illiad with an equally bold and expansive portrait of the women caught at its center. The characters are phenomenal — nuanced and realistic, but still tied to the gods — and Barker's attention to historical detail makes the sights and smells of the Greek war camp and arena come to life. Harrowing and vivid, The Silence of the Girls belongs next to Christa Wolf's Cassandra and Euripedes's The Trojan Women in the tiny canon of exquisite works about the human collateral of the Trojan War. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
A retelling of the story of the fall of Troy told from a woman’s perspective — but not just any woman, a queen, Briseis, who becomes a slave when captured. Her rape and subsequent life as a piece of property owned by Achilles form the center of this story. It is a story about a particular time and place, but also a timeless story of the plight of women in a war zone. Recommended By Miriam S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
One of Vanity Fair‘s Best Fall Books of 2018
“An important, powerful, memorable book that invites us to look differently not only at The Iliad but at our own ways of telling stories about the past and the present.” — Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey
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.
“Well-written as anything Barker has done before....The Silence of the Girls is a novel that allows those who were dismissed as girls — the women trapped in a celebrated historical war — to speak, to be heard, to bear witness. In doing so, Barker has once again written something surprising and eloquent that speaks to our times while describing those long gone.” Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post
“Evocative....The powerful story line is merely the framework; what make this novel so fascinating are all the interstitial details.” John Greenya, The Washington Times
“Almost Homeric in its brilliance....Refreshingly modern....Ms. Barker [switches] nimbly between the daily drudgery of the camp and the horrors of conflict....Venerable scenes and mythic names magically become new....Domestic details are piercingly described, bringing the squalor of the camp to life....A masterful and moving novel.” The Economist
About the Author
Pat Barker is most recently the author of the novels Toby’s Room and Life Class, as well as the highly acclaimed Regeneration Trilogy: Regeneration; The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road, winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. She lives in the north of England.
Miriam Sontz on PowellsBooks.Blog
The richness of others is usually hidden from view. I try as a friend, parent, neighbor, shopper, and leader to be a little more revealing about myself in the hopes of reciprocity, of learning more about the other...