Title: The Silence of the Girls
Author: Pat Barker
Bookstore: Book of the Month
Publisher: Doubleday Books
The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman – Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman – Briseis – watches and waits for the war’s outcome. 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 Achille’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, Briseis 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 coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis is in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army 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.
This has been a year of Greek mythology for me! Before this book, I read two books earlier in the year that centers around Greek mythology; The Song of Achilles and Circe both written by Madeline Miller. The Songs of Achilles is about the great Greek warrior, Achilles seen through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’s right-hand man. Circe is about a Goddess that is banished to an island by Apollo due to her witchcraft and sorcery. The difference between The Silence of the Girls and The Song of Achilles is that you see it from the perspective of a woman, Bresies, a woman that was a queen of a kingdom and was taken captive to become a slave for Achilles after her kingdom was overthrown by the Greeks.
Barker does a fantastic job in creating and laying out such a historical storyline by retelling Homer’s Illiad. The book is so descriptive that I can vividly see it come to life in my mind. I am a visual person, so I enjoy books that are very descriptive. This book is heartbreaking in every way, she writes about how women were treated during this era. They were beaten, raped and treated horribly. In addition, children and men were killed with no remorse. If this is a trigger for you, I don’t recommend because it is graphic and brutal.
In this book, you also learn about the great Trojan War which lasted ten years until the Greeks defeated the Trojans and overtook the kingdom of Troy. You learn about the Achilles, Patroclus, Agamemnon, the city of Troy and the Greek army. There are many stories on the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus, but I like how this re-telling captures Achilles’s both dark and soft side.
All the previous books I have read of the re-telling of Achilles and the Trojan War is always from the third person or second person point of view of a male character. Of course, right after I finished reading the book, I went straight to Netflix to watch the movie Troy starring Orlando Bloom, Brad Pitt, and Eric Bana (it been a while since I watched the movie, it’s one of my faves!).
Apart from this being a novel, this is a history lesson told in the best way. If you’re into Greek mythology this the book for you!