Why The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker Made Me Angry

‘I heard him before I saw him: his battle cry ringing round the walls…’

When her city falls to the Greeks, Briseis’s old life is shattered. She goes from queen to captive, from free woman to slave, awarded to the godlike warrior Achilles as a prize of battle. She’s not alone. On the same day, and on many others in the course of a long, bitter war, innumerable women have been wrested from their homes and flung to the fighters.

As told in The Iliad, the Trojan War was a quarrel between men. But what of the women in this story, silenced by their fates? What words did they speak when alone with each other, in the laundry, at the loom, when laying out the dead?

In this magnificent novel of the Trojan War, Pat Barker summons the voices of Briseis and her fellow women to tell this mythic story anew, foregrounding their experiences against the backdrop of savage battle between men. One of the contemporary writers on war and its collateral damage, here Pat Barker reimagines the most famous of all wars in literature, charting one woman’s journey through it, as she struggles to free herself and to become the author of her own story.

First published: 2018

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