July 2020 Owl treats · Reviews

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

5 Hoots

A hauntingly beautiful and tragic retelling of the Iliad.

Growing up I was obsessed with Greek Myths, they were my favorite. Seriously, for my one 7th grade products I drew each of the muses. Yet, I never really thought of the background characters in the stories. We have “heroes” attacking villages and doing all things epic, and not once did the reality of what it meant to be on the losing side. That is where this book comes in. This is the story of the Iliad but told from the side of the women who were claimed as prizes when their city is destroyed. This story specifically follows Briseis, the Trojan queen who becomes the slave/prize of Achillies. This is not a happy story filled with heroes and gods, this is the story of the women and children that were taken by the “heroes”.

I do want to start off my review with a Trigger warning this book does deal with topics like rape, abuse, and murder. Thankfully the portions of the book where Briseis discusses her rape or the rape of others it wasn’t graphic like it is in say…Game of Thrones. She explains that it happens and the horror of it, but thankfully doesn’t go into detail which is very important to me as a reader. Briseis is strong and I loved reading her thoughts and the powerful hatred she had for Achilles and the men of his army. Yes, she did do as she was told (she had no choice) but there is such a defiance in everything she does. She prays to the God Apollo for a plague on the camp. She imagines being able to kill Achilles. She is just everything you would imagine her to be. She is a survivor.

What I loved about this book was that it brought some dark reality to those Greek myths. Baker does keep the original story as the bones of this one, but it is so much more. It brings the horror of war to the front. It forces the reader to really think of the silent voices lost to history but it did not do this in a preachy way. Barker painted an beautiful picture with her words and you found yourself agreeing with everything that Briseis felt. You wanted to cry with her and fight along side of her. You went along this journey of anger, hatred, and revenge al the way to her shift of understanding and even friendship. This book just pulls you in and doesn’t want to let go.

Overall, I don’t think I am doing justice to this book. It elicited so many different emotions from me. I felt hatred, sadness, and brief moments of joy along with Breseis. There was even a moment in the story where she humanizes every victim who died at the hands of Achilles by naming them. They weren’t just faceless people, they were young men or boys who died for the glory of war. Even the women were no longer faceless characters in a Greek myth. They were mothers, daughters, and fierce survivors in their own rights. If you are a fan of Greek myths and would love to read a new twist on a classic, this is the book for you!

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