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The Silence of the Girls

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  10,534 ratings  ·  1,786 reviews
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 br ...more
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Doubleday Books (first published August 30th 2018)
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Martha I don't think anything is inappropriate for a teenager to read.
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3.88  · 
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 ·  10,534 ratings  ·  1,786 reviews


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Emily May
"Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles . . . How the epithets pile up.
We never called him any of those things; we called him ‘the butcher’."

The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of Homer's The Iliad that brings in the stories of the women and girls who were, essentially, collateral damage in the Trojan War.

Briseis is the narrator. When Lyrnessus falls to the Greeks, she becomes a war prize for Achilles but quickly gets caught up in a dispute between him and
...more
jessica
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
sometimes it feels as if my hearts only purpose is to beat for greek mythology and this book is a gift, straight from zeus himself, to give me life.

this retelling of the trojan war is, simply put, stunning. whilst classic myths tell about the glory and conquests of men, this focuses on the quiet and unassuming presence of women. elegantly written from the point of briseis, the reader is given a unique perspective that is often overlooked.

‘we are going to survive – our songs, our stories. theyl
...more
Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
I was a slave, and a slave will do anything, anything at all, to stop being a thing and become a person again.
This is a really good historical novel. I didn't say historical romance because it is most definitely not one. If you're expecting a romance novel, you'd be dead wrong.

It's a brutal tale. If you're triggered by rape, you should stay away from this book, but it is just a fact, it is not used as a plot device.

The theme of this book is survival, or rather, subsistence. Briseis was a queen
...more
Meredith
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: overdrive
“The defeated go down in history and disappear, and their stories die with them.”

The Silence of the Girls is a dark and weighty retelling of the Iliad. Told from the voice of one of the defeated, Briseis, the reader is offered a different perspective on the destruction of Troy.


Briseis, once a queen, is now a prized possession of Achilles--the same man who destroyed her city and butchered her family. Relegated to be Achilles’ “bed girl,” she is merely serving a purpose in the Greek camp. “And
...more
Melanie

This was my pick for the September 2018 Book of the Month box!

“Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles's story; and I’d failed. Because make no mistake, this was his story—his anger, his grief, his story. I was angry, I was grieving, but somehow that didn’t matter.”

Hi, my name is Melanie and 2018 has been the year that I constantly talk about my love for Greek mythos retellings. The Silence of the Girls is a feminist reimagining of Ho
...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader by: Tammy
All the stars to my new favorite read, The Silence of the Girls!

Today I have a book that came highly recommended by my friend, Paula, at Book Jotter, and my Goodreads friend, Tammy.

My Thoughts:

The Silence of the Girls is referred to as a masterpiece in its synopsis. Yes, it is absolutely a stunning masterpiece.

For over 10 years, the city of Troy has been under siege and in battle over Helen, a woman who can observe the war high atop a parapet within the city walls.

Another woman, Briseis, a form
...more
Rachel
It's so hard to divorce my love of the Iliad from my experience reading The Silence of the Girls, but I think that's partially what makes this such a fantastic retelling. Told primarily from the perspective of Briseis, a Trojan captive given to Achilles as a war prize, Pat Barker's novel endeavors to tell the unsung story of the female characters who litter the background of the Ancient Greek epic. And she does a pretty brilliant job.

The pleasure I derive from reading retellings, and especially
...more
Paromjit
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
Pat Barker continues on the themes of war, providing a brutally visceral portrait in this telling of The Iliad, adding the voices of the women missing from the original. When her family is wiped out by the forces of Agamemnon, Briseis becomes the premier warrior, Achilles, trophy prize. Barker provides complex and nuanced characterisation, of the women as slaves, prostitutes, nurses, whilst giving us an Achilles that is less a hero, more a troubled man with his own demons. We get the clash of ma ...more
Tammy
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Royal Briseis is presented to Achilles as a prize for sacking and destroying Lyrnessus a neighboring city of Troy. So this is a re-telling of the final few weeks of The Iliad’s Trojan War from the perspective of a “bed-slave”. While Briseis has it better than the abject slavery of many other female captives her life is, in its own way, just as brutal. The prose of Part One is bewitching but it falls apart for a few chapters within Part Two where it veers off into clichés as well as attempts at c ...more
Tatiana
Oct 19, 2018 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: 2018, historical
30%, I am calling it quits

I guess what I don't understand is why, if you choose to rewrite The Iliad from the perspective of women, all these women do is talk about men, observe these said men, and that's it? Literally, 2 pages are given to Briseis's pre-capture past. The rest, so far at least, is her watching men do things, mostly disgusting things, and being abused, with an occasional break for an entirely too modern for the story feminist lecture. Why no time is spent on women nurturing relat
...more
Hannah Greendale
This reads as if Barker set out to retell "The Iliad" from the perspective of the women and - whoopsy - forgot that was the goal and wrote a book about Achilles instead. Don't be fooled; The Silence of the Girls only follows one woman, briefly, and she harbors an apathetic, compliant view towards rape. Very disappointed to have spent money on a book that doesn't even come close to delivering what it promises.
What can I say? He wasn't cruel. I waited for it - expected it, even - but there was not
...more
Puck
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of the Iliad
"I was a slave, and a slave will do anything, anything at all, to stop being a thing and become a person again."

This book was not what I hoped it would be. After reading Circe this summer and falling in love with it, I couldn’t wait to read more historic novels about Greek Mythology.
Yet where this story promised to be a retelling of the Iliad from the perspective of the girls (multiple!), I only get one girl. For a while.

The beginning and the first volume are very strong. Queen Briseis and
...more
Jenna
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Yes, the death of young men in battle is a tragedy... A tragedy worthy of any number of laments—but theirs is not the worst fate."

History is told from the point of view of the historian. Because of this, we often do not know the entire truth; we do not know both sides of a story. We do not hear how "the other" thinks and feels. We have little written by women from the ancient world and thus we do not know how they might have thought and felt about the world they lived in, their particular str
...more
Roman Clodia
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been trying to escape not just from the camp but from Achilles' story

This is the best modern re-telling of the Iliad that I've read - even if it does perhaps extend too far, taking in the aftermath of war as told in Athenian tragedies: the Hekabe, and the Trojan Women especially.

Told in a straightforward narrative, the majority in 1st person from Briseis with intermittent 3rd person chapters from the POV of Achilles, this is both accurate to the tone, register and thought-world of ancien
...more
Emer
'The Silence of the Girls' is an utterly compelling read. It aims to tell the story of the typically voiceless women during the Trojan War by focusing the story primarily on the perspective of Briseis who was once nobility but during the war became Achilles' slave. And for the most part I believe it fulfils its aims. The book doesn't flinch from portraying the barbarity of war time and is filled with gory battlefield depictions and a lot of sexual violence. This doesn't make for an easy read but ...more
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Man, people are getting all up in this book's face because it doesn't read like Madeline Miller. Of course it doesn't read like Madeline Miller. Do you see the name Madeline Miller on the cover? No; it says "Pat Barker." It's like marching up to your step-mom and saying, "YOU'RE NOT MY REAL MOM." Well, duh. But that doesn't necessarily mean that she's a bad person, either.



THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS appeared on Netgalley one fine summer day, a
...more
Paul Fulcher
"'Silence becomes a woman.' Every woman I’ve ever known was brought up on that saying."

Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Iliad, the story of Achilles at the siege of Troy.

The epigraph to Barker's novel is what she has said in the inspiration for this book, a passage from Philip Roth's The Human Stain:

"‘You know how European literature begins?’ he’d ask, after having taken the roll at the first class meeting. ‘With a quarrel. All of European literature springs from a fi
...more
Trudie
I think Pat Barker is one of my favourite writers about war. The Regeneration Trilogy is the book series I compare all other World War I literature to. What I enjoy about Barker's style is she balances often intensely visceral and clinical descriptions of violence with a tender and complex exploration of the emotional impacts of warfare.
I read Silence of the Girls much less as a retelling of The Iliad from a female perspective but more as Barker demonstrating that, even if we have moved from sw
...more
Patty
A retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of Briseis (minor Trojan queen, taken as a war prize and given to Achilles as a slave, then claimed by Agamemnon), and given a radical, feminist spin by focusing on the silenced women and servants.

This book should have been amazing. I mean, how do you look at that description and not want to immediately read it? Unfortunately, it's nothing but a disappointment. The prose is just... not good. It's shallow and adolescent, with a frequent reliance
...more
Jo
I was greatly excited to get my hands on a beautiful, hardback copy of this particular book. The cover art is just stunning, and really does look amazing in my bookcase. When I realised that this book was potentially a retelling of "The Iliad" but told from an entirely different perspective, I was intrigued. When I discovered it was going to be told from the perspective of Breseis, that was enough to make me purchase the book.
The story Barker tells in this book, is essentially one of rape and sl
...more
Hugh
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, modern-lit
I have to start with a disclaimer. My knowledge of the classics is poor, I was taught very little at school and I have never read The Iliad. I did read Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles a couple of years ago, but as far as I can tell both that and this book are selective about which parts of the original to retain, and Barker and Miller put very different spins on the story.

The opening is striking: "Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles. . . How the epithets
...more
Gumble's Yard
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now longlisted for the Women's Prize 2019.

Now it’s full of frightened old men who think their day is over (and they’re probably right) and overexcited young men who jabber till the spit flies, though it’s only stuff they’ve read in the paper. The women have gone very quiet. It’s like the Iliad, you know, when Achilles insults Agamemnon and Agamemnon says he’s got to have Achilles’ girl and Achilles goes off and sulks by the long ships and the girls they’re quarrelling over say nothing, not a wo
...more
Canadian
“Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles’ story . . .”

“I thought: Suppose, suppose just once, once, in all these centuries, the slippery gods keep their word and Achilles is granted eternal glory in return for his death under the walls of Troy . . .? What will they make of us, the people of those unimaginably distant times? One thing I do know: they don’t want the brutal reality of conquest and slavery. They won’t want to be told about t
...more
Eric Anderson
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s been frequently observed how retellings of Greek myths have dominated literary fiction lately - from Madeline Miller “Circe” to Colm Toibin’s “House of Names” to modern retakes like “Home Fire” and “Everything Under”. You’d think with this prolific focus on the same characters and situations it’d come to feel repetitive, but I’m finding the more retellings I read the more engaged I am. It was particularly interesting coming to “The Silence of the Girls” having read “The Song of Achilles” an ...more
Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I'm a sucker for a good retelling, especially if it's about the Ancient Greeks. So I admit that I'm the exact right audience for Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls. And yet, it still exceeded my expectations.

The Silence of the Girls recounts the story of The Iliad as seen through the eyes of Briseis, a Trojan queen taken as a slave by Achilles as his reward for the sack of Lyrnessus. As the years-long battle wages on, Briseis tries to make sense of her new l
...more
Donna
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neil
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, netgalley, 2019
This was a re-read and I found the book much stronger on a second time through. The first time through, I gave it four stars but have since thought that maybe that was generous. Re-reading it has confirmed it as 4 stars for me despite some doubts I may have been having.

Two topics that often seem to be discussed in relationship to this book are firstly its links to the First World War (and the author's other books on this) and secondly its feminist re-working of the story.

Several people have poin
...more
Jennifer
In The Silence of the Girls, author Pat Barker takes an important but mainly silent character from Homer's Iliad and gives her voice. She is Achilles' war prize: Briseis, an involuntary sex slave. Through Briseis' point of view, Barker highlights hard truths about the characters in this well-known piece of literature. It's a question about heroes and villains, and an exploration of how women have been treated as commodities all the way back to an imagined history. Barker removes the glory of men ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Telling the story of the Iliad through the eyes of Briseis is a really good idea, there's so much potential to present the familiar through a drastically different lens. As Barker (through Briseis) notes, there is a story of men and glory presented to the world, but the story that isn't told is one of rape and slavery. Ultimately, though, I didn't feel like The Silence of the Girls did enough to change the story.

At the end of the day, this book is the story of Achilles just from a different poi
...more
Katie Long
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this reimagining of the Iliad from Briseis’s perspective. But that’s just it, I loved it when we were getting Briseis’s perspective. Too often Barker shifts away from her, to an omniscient third person narration of events that she isn’t present for, which pulled me away from the intimacy of her story.
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804 followers
Pat Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics.

Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy Regeneration; The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road, winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. She's married and lives in Durham, Engla
...more
“We’re going to survive–our songs, our stories. They’ll never be able to forget us. Decades after the last man who fought at Troy is dead, their sons will remember the songs their Trojan mothers sang to them. We’ll be in their dreams–and in their worst nightmares too.” 26 likes
“I thought: Suppose, suppose just once, once, all these centuries, the slippery gods keep their word and Achilles is granted eternal glory in return for his early death under the walls of Troy...? What will they make of us, the people of those unimaginably distant times? One thing I do know: they won't want the brutal reality of conquest and slavery. They won't want to be told about the massacres of men and boys, the enslavement of women and girls. They won't want to know we were living in a rape camp. No, they'll go for something altogether softer. A love story, perhaps? I just hope they manage to work out who the lovers were.” 14 likes
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