What do you think?
Rate this book
325 pages, Hardcover
First published August 30, 2018
"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’."
She was like a windflower trembling on its slender stem, so fragile you feel it can’t possibly survive the blasts that shake it, though it survives them all.
‘we are going to survive – our songs, our stories. theyll 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 will be in their dreams – and in their worst nightmares, too.’
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.
Iphition. Eighteen when he died. Achilles killed him with a sword cut straight down the middle of his head, the two sides falling neatly apart, like a split walnut, to expose the convoluted brain. Dropping to the ground, he fell under the hooves of Achilles’s trampling horses and the chariot wheels ground him deep into the mud.This book is not only about Briseis, it's about war. Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Patroclus. It may be a brutal book, but it's beautiful in its stark brutality.
“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.
Here I was [...] still trapped, still stuck inside his story, and yet with no real part to play.”
“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.”
“Another successful raid, another city destroyed, men and boys killed, women and girls enslaved—all in all, a good day. And there was still the night to come.”
“Nobody wins a trophy and hides it at the back of a cupboard. You want it where it can be seen, so that other men will envy you.”
“Silence become a woman.”
'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, perhapes? I just hope they manage to work out who the lovers were.'
'This man killed your brothers, he killed your husband, he burned your city, he destroyed every single thing you'd ever loved - and you were prepared to marry him? I don't understand how you could do that.'
'Perhaps that's because you've never been a slave. No, if you want to pick at something, why don't you ask me why I'm telling this as if it were a communal event? 'Our' grieve, 'our' losses. There was no 'our'. I knelt at Patroclus' feet and I knew I'd lost one of the dearest friends I ever had.'
'it seemed to me I'd been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles' 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. Here I was, again, waiting for Achilles to decide when it was time for bed, still trapped, still stuck inside his story, and yet with no real part to play in it.
'His story. His, not mine. It ends at his grave.
Once, not so long ago, I tried to walk out of Achilles' story - and failed. now, my own story can begin.'
I've been trying to escape not just from the camp but from Achilles' story
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 word … I don’t suppose men ever hear that silence.”
I remember how he'd held my chin in his hand, turning my head this way and that, before walking into the centre of the arena, holding up his arms and saying "Cheers, lads. She'll do"" And again, at the end [referring to Alcimus who Achilles instructs to marry Briseis so as to keep her safe after his own expected death] holding my chin, tilting my head: "He's a good man. He'll be kind to you. And he'll take care of you".”
That voice, always so dominant, drowning out every other voice"