Book Review: The Silence Of The Girls by Pat Barker


“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. “

the silence of the girls by pat barker a novel blue color cover

Isn’t that love’s highest aim? Not the interchange of two free minds, but a single, fused identity?”

Historical, Greek Mythology, War

Kindle Edition/ e-book

Thrill : 3/5
Action: 4/5
Pace   : 4/5

                                                           A TALE OF SURVIVAL

This retelling of Homer’s The Iliad by Pat Barker from the female point of view was definitely a humbling read for me.

In this story, there are no heroes, no saviors. There is just death, destruction and grief. And caught in the middle of it all, the women of the fallen cities.
In our modern day lives, we read about various crimes against women in the newspapers. We hear about them in the news or the radio. Some of us actually listen and sympathize while others just ignore it and go on about their lives, thinking ,’Well, that can’t be us’.
I always imagined how it would have been for women before our time. When wars were a way of life. And I found the answer in this book by Pat Barker. Least to say, the fate of women was not pretty.
‘The Silence of the girls’ by Pat Barker is a straight in-your-face narration of what happened to the women of the side that lost the war. However, as you read the various conversations between the captured women, you realize that even when ‘free’, they were still captive. They were bound by the culture and the traditions that objectified them nonetheless.

‘Silence becomes a women’

Told from the point of view of Briseis, who was once a queen but becomes a concubine to Achilles, Pat Barker uses a pretty subdued narrative in ‘The Silence of the Girls’. The narrator, Briseis is very to the point. This is what draws the reader’s attention to the fact that even when free, these women were as much living lives in captivity before, as they were after. The women were brought up with slave mentalities to begin with.

While reaching the end, the title starts making sense because there is no uproar from the women, no heroic ‘sassiness’ or ‘fiestyness’. All there is a sense of acceptance, a strength of character, an endurance and the need for survival.

And that is what was humbling……………………..


2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Silence Of The Girls by Pat Barker

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