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Review: The Silence of the Girls

Book: The Silence of the Girls

Author: Pat Barker

Year Published: 2018

  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4/5

The Silence of the Girls was a moving retelling that focused on what the women had to endure whilst recounting the events of The Iliad by Homer. It wasn’t as breathtaking as other Greek mythology retellings I’ve read (such as Circe by Madeline Miller) but it was still a rather powerful read.

The book is primarily told from the perspective of Briseis. She was the queen of Lyrnessus until Achilles sacked the city and killed every male- young or old. And what happened to the women of Lyrnessus? They all became slaves to the men who killed their families and destroyed their home. Briseis became Achilles’ ‘war prize’, concubine and slave.

Seeing the events of the Trojan War through Briseis’ eyes was interesting because in tales of Greek mythology everything is so focused on The Trials and Triumphs of the Great and Powerful Heroes that no one seems to care about the women, silently suffering in the background.  Through Briseis’ inner thoughts, feelings and fears a whole new side to these Great and Powerful Heroes was revealed. A side that saw women as ‘war prizes’ to be awarded, used and passed on as one pleased, as objects that existed to serve as opposed to human beings with rights and lives that they were crushing every second of every day. Because no one sang songs about the women, theirs was a song of silence: of quiet tears, of broken hearts and of crushed hopes.

However, half way through the book, Achilles started to get some chapters from his perspective which was quite disappointing because I thought it was Briseis’ story and I wanted to learn more about her, not him. And while Achilles was portrayed as a very complex character- from his insecurities about his mother leaving to his strong friendship with Patroclus and his hunger for fame and glory– I didn’t want to read from his point of view, I felt as if he was stealing the limelight from Briseis. The only thing I got from his perspective was how much he utterly dismissed Briseis.

This was not a romance story. This was not a happy story. This was a story about how although women always ended up paying the greatest prices, nobody seemed to care.

Thank you to Penguin Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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6 thoughts on “Review: The Silence of the Girls

  1. Great review! I’ve been really keen to read a book from Briseis’ POV after Song of Achilles. Achilles wasn’t as “bad” in that book compared to how he sounds in this one though. From SoA you get the impression that Achilles and Patroclus had a pretty positive relationship with Briseis, so it’s interesting to see that this book doesn’t seem to paint it that way? Looking forward to checking this out 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Having read both this book and The Song of Achilles I can say that while they are both retellings of the iliad they are vastly different. Briseis and Achilles are presented in completely different lights in both books. It’s really interesting to contrast and compare them!

      Liked by 1 person

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