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The Silence of the Girls

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  46,324 ratings  ·  5,736 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 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 b ...more
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published August 30th 2018 by Penguin
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Michelle Boyer-Kelly I'm not a parent.
But as a teenager, I was actively reading anything I could get my hands on that discussed the Trojan War. This often includes materi…more
I'm not a parent.
But as a teenager, I was actively reading anything I could get my hands on that discussed the Trojan War. This often includes material that has violence, rape, etc., but I would argue it isn't gratuitous. It all serves to portray historic events (sieges, war, treatment of women, etc.) and does a decent job of not going over the top.
I don't see a problem with a teenager reading this novel. I definitely read material that had more violence and rape imagery ("To Kill a Mockingbird" for example). But, you could always tell your daughter if she becomes uncomfortable with the book, she can stop reading. Or skip ahead a few pages. (less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Katelijne Sommen Why should the author honour Homer's original plot points, when the exact and explicit point of this novel is that the stories that have reached us ar…moreWhy should the author honour Homer's original plot points, when the exact and explicit point of this novel is that the stories that have reached us are the stories of men, not those of women?

Homer tells us Agamemnon never touched her. Barker, operating from a version of Briseis' imagined experience, tells us that in that version, it makes perfect sense that he DID, and absolutely wouldn't baulk at lying under oath to Zeus. This only drives home the point that the time Briseis lived in, and the war even moreso, served to silence women to the point where their actual, brutal experience was completely meaningless and would not have even been considered to have any relevance. (less)

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Emily May
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, arc, 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’."

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 a
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. the
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 que
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
Oct 19, 2018 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, 2018
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
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. “A

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 reimagini
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Amalia Gkavea
'' 'Divine Muse, sing of the ruinous wrath of Achilles...Begin where they first quarrelled, Agamemnon the King of men and great Achilles.' And what are they quarrelling about, these two violent, mighty souls? It's as basic as a barroom brawl. They are quarrelling over a woman. A girl, really. A girl stolen from her father. A girl abducted in a war.''
The Human Stain , Philip Roth

Queen Briseis can hear the army approaching her land. The Myrmidons, brave warriors, led by the greatest of men.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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 a
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Charlotte May
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology, war
“Silence becomes a woman.”

Briseis is a noble woman who becomes a slave when her city is attacked by the Greeks on their way to Troy. She is taken by Achilles as his ‘prize of honour’ as are hundreds of other women.

Those not as ‘lucky’ are passed around between men, forced to sleep on the ground and beg for scraps of food.

This is the Trojan war from behind the scenes. Not the glorious battle and noble deaths, but those who didn’t choose this. Those taken from everything they’ve known, forced
Helena Paris
“What will they make of us, the people of those unimaginable 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 softer. A love story, perhaps? I just hope they manage to work out who the lovers were.”


If I had to describe this book in two words, I’d pick…hauntingly beauti
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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 s
Roman Clodia
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 anci
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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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
Paul Fulcher
Now shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2020

"'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 meetin
I am in love. Nearly everything about this book worked for me. While I do think that parts of that are due to the fact that it hits a lot of sweet spots of mine, I also think it really is an incredible achievement. I adore the story of the Trojan War though - so this was probably always going to work for me.

Pat Barker sets out to give a voice to Briseis, whose importance in the Trojan War cannot be overstated but who remains mostly voiceless in the Iliad. Briseis narrates the vast majority of th
Éimhear (A Little Haze)
'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
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
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
This book was I thhink shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Novel award, the 2019 Women's Prize for fiction and the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award - so it is perhaps appropriate that I have now read it three times (in 2018, 2019 for a Book Group and 2021 ahead of the publication of its sequel)

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
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019

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, shinin
How could you do that? 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” grief, “our” losses. There was no “our.” I knelt at Patroclus’s feet and I knew I’d lost one of the dear
Renee Godding
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating: 4.5/5 stars

Is anybody actually surprised that I read and loved another retelling of a Greek Classic?
Nope...? Didn't think so.
Eric Anderson
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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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

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In any given month, the range of new books hitting the shelves can be frankly astonishing. For the dedicated reader, part of the thrill of...
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“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.” 75 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.” 43 likes
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