Title: The Silence of the Girls
Author: Pat Barker
Genre: Historical Fiction/Retelling
My Rating: 3/5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 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.
welcome to my review of The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This novel has been shortlisted for the women prize for fiction, and it is a retelling of the Iliad told from the point of view of Briseis. If you are a fan of retellings and love ancient Greek epic poems, I would recommend this book. However, if you are very knowledgable about the subject matter, and are looking for something groundbreaking and life changing, this might not be for you. In fact, I gave it 3/5 stars, which is an average rating.
When I heard about this novel I was very intrigued. I have read the Iliad and some retellings of it, but I had never read anything told from a woman’s perspective. I was very interested to see what Barker would be able to construct with this great idea, especially given the title. I was expecting a novel that would give back their voice to the enslaved women. But unfortunately it fell short.
Mind you, the first part of the book was amazing. Beautifully written, raw, honest, heart-wrenching. We got an insight into Briseis’ head, seen what she saw, experienced what she did. The first part would have been a 4 or 5 star for me. The historical accuracy, the truthful descriptions of living conditions during a war, were elements that added so much to this well-known storyline, and the shift in point of view from the eternally domineering male to a female one was refreshing.
(Now I will talk about the second part of the book. Although I will not mention any major spoilers, I will say a few things that are part of the second half, and if you have not read it and want to go into it completely blind, I would advise you to leave now and come back later)
Unfortunately, Barker decided to insert Achilles’ point of view in the second half of the book. WHYYY?????? The novel is entitled the silence of the GIRLS not of Achilles. The introduction of this second voice completely undermined the whole purpose of the book, and even though I have to recognize that the writing is beautiful and the story well written, I had to lower the rating. Please let me know what you thought of this if you have read it, I would be very interested to know.
As I mentioned earlier, I would recommend this book to someone who is not too familiar with the story and wants to get an overview of the Iliad. In the end, this is just a well written retelling of the story we already know, and the great potential it had at first was lost by the end of the novel.
Until next time,