The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker ★★★★☆

Reading for A Very Merry Readathon

I enjoy Greek Mythology. My love for it probably started with God of War on Playstation back in high school (middle school?) and then continued during high school literature as we explored Greek mythology more closely. That continued as I fell in love with Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, then with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Still, I wouldn’t say Greek mythology composes a big part of what I read, but lately I have found myself getting back into it. I read Circe by Madeline Miller then A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes both of which have inspired me to continue with Greek myths. That is the main reason I chose to read The Silence of the Girls which is the story of a minor character, Briseis, from the Trojan War who gets taken by Achilles.

Read 12/21/19

This review is coming a week or more after I finished the book because it has been a busy holiday, so forgive me if my review is slightly abridged due to limited memory.

I really enjoyed this book. It follows the life of Briseis who becomes the slave of Achilles and Agamemnon for brief time. All of these characters where in Haynes’s A Thousand Ships that I recently read, and I thought the two stories complimented each other well. Like a Thousand Ships, this is the story of the women who get trafficked in the course of war.

I found Barker’s writing and story easy to read and enjoy. I thought it did a good job adding a new side of the story with a new perspective of this classic myth. In that sense, it is a supremely effective novel. My biggest issue comes with the focus, which is less the women than Achilles himself. In fact, about half way in we begin to get chapters in the perspective of Achilles himself. One might perceive this as me being mad at the book for just not being exactly what I though it would be, and maybe that is true. However, it seemed to be this story was sold as a story of Briseis not Achilles. Instead, it was Achilles story through Briseis.

That type of approach does give us a new perspective into Achilles relationship with Briseis that seems like it might help us better appreciate Briseis’s struggle, but all we really got from his perspective was that Briseis was rarely more than a symbol of how he is not respected enough. I just wish Barker could conveyed that without focusing so much on Achilles.

Overall, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, and my take away is just to know what to expect going in. 4/5 stars

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