The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker

🏆Top 5 Books of 2018: 2nd Place🏆

“Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles… How the epithets line up. We never called him any of those things; we called him ‘the butcher’.”

I got shivers reading that opening and this book continued to stun me from start to finish. The second Iliad retelling in my Top 5, this one is from the perspective of Briseis, and is a very different beast from The Song of Achilles.

Briseis’ viewpoint gives us and in-depth picture of the Achaean camp on the beach, and deep insight into the lives of Achilles and Patroclus. But also, through her mixing with the other enslaved women – gifted to the generals as ‘war prizes’ – into the lives of women generally in the ten-year seige of Troy, an aspect almost entirely absent from The Iliad itself, hence the book’s title. Barker’s prose is stunning yet to-the-point, and she delivers her message with a firm but gentle hand.

This is not a cheerful book; it’s hard to be with the subject matter. But it is visceral and beautiful and haunting, and reached down deep into me and pulled out feelings I hadn’t encountered from reading a book in a very very long time. It is incredible.

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