I ordered The Silence Of The Girls by Pat Barker as an extra book from Book of the Month a while back and I was just finally able to read it. I’m a huge Greek mythology fan. Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey and Mythology by Edith Hamilton are a few of my favorites. Obviously, any retellings would spark my interest.
Pat Barker‘s The Silence Of The Girls is a retelling of The Illiad. The Illiad is a classic and the fall of Troy is one of, if not the most, famous war in literary history. I went into this story with high expectations for the middle, because clearly we already know the beginning and the end.
The truth is I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I thought I would have. It was interesting enough. I liked the characters ok. I just wasn’t wowed. Rating The Silence Of The Girls was tough. I don’t think the book was poorly written or deserving of a 2-star review, but I also didn’t like it enough to give it a 3 or 4-star review. In the end, I went with 3 stars because I liked more of it than I disliked.
I felt like the story sounded like it was written in 2018. Of course, it was published in 2018 so you’re probably thinking, well duh. The issue is that I wanted it to feel like it was written in 850 BC. That is what caused the initial disconnect for me and I just couldn’t recover from it. If its worth anything, I will say that Pat Barker stuck closer to The Illiad than the movie Troy did.
The Trojan War is raging. Lyrnessus has fallen and with it King Mynes, his soldiers, and all of his male citizens. The Greeks ransack the city and drag the surviving women and girls into their new lives as war camp slaves. The Silence Of The Girls is told from the perspective of Queen Breseis. After witnessing the brutal murder of her family at the hands of Achilles, her beauty and stature earn her the privilege and horror of becoming Achilles’ prize.
Life with Achilles and Patroclus is a mixture of emotions underlined with hatred and outlined with fear. Being forced to sleep with the enemy is the worst thing that she could imagine. At least it was until a plague of Apollo falls on the camp. The god of mice unleashes his wrath and the fallout changes the tides of the war. Breseis finds herself stuck right in the middle. Unfortunately for her, she has no control over what’s to come and even less control over how she feels about it.
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The Silence Of The Girls is told from the perspective of a newly enslaved queen in a war camp. Most of the women who survive end up wishing they had committed suicide before the city fell. No matter what their status in Lyrnessus was, these women become the objects of unthinkable and uncountable sexual and physical abuse.
Camp life is dangerous work for woman and girls alike. There is a scene between Agamemnon and Breseis that LITERALLY made my skin crawl. I had to close the book and walk away to recover from it. The saddest part is that woman all over the world from the war-torn middle east to girls walking to their college dorms experience this kind of abuse daily. I should digress before this book review turns into an entirely different rant.
Love Or Hate
Stockholm syndrome runs rampant throughout the Greek camp. The internal struggle to survive and adapt to her new role while not violating the memory of her dead husband and brothers is a constant source of turmoil for Breseis and many of her counterparts.
Achilles and Patroclus’s relationship is convoluted (as usual), but their love for each other jumps off of the page. Achilles is presented in a way that makes him hard to like, BUT I still liked him. My heart probably broke more for him than for Breseis.
I think you should read The Silence Of The Girls and decide for yourself. I liked the book enough and I feel like someone who doesn’t have an expectation for tone and style in this genre would enjoy it more. It truly is not Pat Barker‘s fault that I went in expecting an 8th-century epic poem.