Silence of the Girls
by Barker, Pat

Reimagines "The Iliad" from the perspectives of the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War, as Briseis, conquered queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, becomes caught between the two most powerful Greek leaders.

PAT BARKER is the author of Union Street, Blow Your House Down, The Century's Daughter, The Man Who Wasn't There, the Regeneration trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road), Another World, Border Crossing, Double Vision, and the Life Class trilogy (Life Class, Toby's Room, and Noonday). She lives in Durham, England.

*Starred Review* Queen Briseis and the women of Lyrnessus watch helplessly from the citadel as Achilles destroys the city, slaughtering their husbands, fathers, sons. When Briseis is made Achilles' slave as a prize of war, the one comfort in this horrifying new existence is Patroclus, Achilles' comrade and friend. When Agamemnon attempts to claim Briseis as his own, it changes the tide of the Trojan War. In graceful prose, Man Booker Prize winner Barker (Noonday, 2016), renowned for her historical fiction trilogies, offers a compelling take on the events of The Iliad, allowing Briseis a first-person perspective, while players such as Patroclus and Achilles are examined in illuminating third-person narration. Briseis is flawlessly drawn as Barker wisely avoids the pitfall so many authors stumble into headlong, namely, giving her an anachronistic modern feminist viewpoint. Instead, the terror of her experience of being treated as an object rather than a person speaks (shouts) for itself. Patroclus tells her things will change, and if they don't, to make them, to which Briseis, utterly powerless, replies, "Spoken like a man." The army camp, the warrior mindset, the horrors of battle, the silence of the girls-Barker makes it all convincing and very powerful. Recommended on the highest order. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

An accomplished hand at historical fiction respins the final weeks of the Trojan War. For her 14th novel, Booker Prize-winning Barker plucks her direction from the first line of the Iliad: "Divine Muse, sing of the ruinous wrath of Achilles...." The archetypal Greek warrior's battle cries ring throughout these pages, beginning on the first. The novel opens as Achilles and his soldiers sack Lyrnessus, closing in on the women and children hiding in the citadel. Narrating their terrifying approach is Briseis, the local queen who sees her husband and brothers slaughtered below. She makes a fateful choice not to follow her cousin over the parapet to her death. She becomes instead Achilles' war trophy. Briseis calls herself "a disappointment...a skinny little thing, all hair and eyes and scarcely a curve in sight." But in the Greek military encampment on the outskirts of Troy, she stirs much lust, including in the commander Agamemnon. So far, so faithful to Homer. Barker's innovati on rests in the female perspective, something she wove masterfully into her Regeneration and Life Class trilogies about World War I. Here she gives Briseis a wry voice and a watchful nature; she likens herself as a mouse to Achilles' hawk. Even as the men boast and drink and fight their way toward immortality, the camp women live outwardly by Barker's title. Their lives depend on knowing their place: "Men carve meaning into women's faces; messages addressed to other men." Barker writes 47 brisk chapters of smooth sentences; her dialogue, as usual, hums with intelligence. But unlike her World War I novels, the verisimilitude quickly thins. Her knowledge of antiquity is not nearly as assured as Madeline Miller's in The Song of Achilles and Circe. Barker's prose is awkwardly thick with Briticisms—breasts are "wrinkled dugs" or "knockers." And she mistakenly gives the Greeks a military field hospital, which was an innovation of the Romans. A depiction of Achilles' endless g rief for Patroclus becomes itself nearly endless. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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