Pat Barker’s latest release, “The Silence of the Girls,” is set during the bloody Trojan War after Achilles conquers a Trojan city. There he lays claim to a woman named Briseis, among other prisoners. Briseis becomes Achilles’ grand prize in the war as she struggles to survive with other prisoners in a treacherous Greek war camp.
Full of suspense, chaos and unfiltered brutality, Barker expertly showcases the darkest aspects of this war that has been told throughout history for hundreds of years.
Briseis is a resilient protagonist who gives readers a firsthand look into the horrors of the Greek camp from the perspective of a prisoner. Rather than the novel following a soldier fighting in this war, it follows a woman who becomes a war prize where she sees firsthand how villainous Achilles really is.
Rather than being the hero of the tale, Achilles is an arrogant, self-centered, spiteful killer that courses hatred through Briseis veins. While other novels may paint Achilles as a hero, Briseis sees him only as a villain who claimed her land, herself and her people as pawns in an explosive war that is ruining people on both sides of the fight.
Throughout this novel, there is unfiltered brutality both on and off the battlefield. Barker really highlights the anguish and despair that blankets everyone during a war. She also focuses most of the novel around the mistreatment toward the imprisoned Trojan women at the hand of Greek soldiers.
Readers also get a glimpse into how this endless war affects Briseis, Achilles, Patroclus and other well-known characters who play vital roles in this vividly written and dark historical fiction novel.
While this dark retelling of the Trojan War might not be for everyone, due to its graphic descriptions and heavy subject, it is an eye-opening read that will be on readers’ minds long after they have finished the novel. Each character has vastly different motives and personalities that come off the pages of the novel and breathe on their own. This is a historical fiction novel that feels as though it is playing in real time due to its brilliant writing describing such a horrific time in history.
For fans of mythology, “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller or “The Iliad” by Homer, this haunting tale is one that should not be overlooked. Readers are sure to think about this novel, Briseis and Achilles long after they have finished this brilliantly written, mythological tale.
Barker brings to light the horrors of war, the gross mistreatment of women and the undying strength that Briseis has in this dark take on a great war many have read about for hundreds of years.