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Book Review: The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Ok, so where to start with this one. It was never on my radar. Would never have even given this a second glance … anywhere. But but but … sometimes we have no choice at bookclub ha! I was so surprised by this book (meaning, surprised I liked it so much). I’ll summarise some thoughts below!

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology

BUG Rating: 4/5

Overall: I LOVED it. And I am kind of ashamed of this, given how much resistance I put up before actually starting it. It’s true, bookclub is great for pushing you out of your comfort zone. Not a book I would have ever given a second glance to on a shelf in the bookstore… but I was just so surprised. Something about the writing captured me, immediately from the first page. It was beautifully written, lyrical in parts. I just loved it. And then the story … It took me a while to feel ‘comfortable’ I kept thinking the POV was changing throughout the chapters for some reason, but a while, I was fine. The character development was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Barker does an absolutely fantastic job (huge round of applause here) at bringing to life all the characters. I loved all the characters- even, maybe especially, Achilles. The book had everything, including the goriest and darkest scenes I could imagine, to some really heartbreaking ones. Not to mention there’s stories of friendships built along the way. The more I reflect on this the more I loved it. I will be recommending it to everyone!

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 brother

Plot:

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 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 coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself 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. 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.

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