Day 1292: The Silence of the Girls

Cover for The Silence of the GirlsFictionalizing ancient stories and myths seems to be popular now. I have read a few of these novels, including The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller’s novel about the Trojan War. That novel focused on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. Although The Silence of the Girls is also partially about them, it is from a point of view heretofore unexamined, that of the Trojan women taken as slaves by the Greeks during the war. It is narrated mostly by Briseis.

Depending upon how well you know your Iliad, you may remember that Briseis is the woman awarded to Achilles who is later taken away by Agamemnon when he is forced to give up Chryseis. It is Achilles’s forced forfeiture of Briseis that leads him to sulk in his tent while the other Greeks are being slaughtered.

The novel begins with the fall of the Trojan city Lyrnessus, of which Briseis is the young queen. Achilles is called “the butcher” by the Trojans, and the women wait in fear when the citadel falls, knowing their boys will be murdered along with the pregnant women, and girls as young as nine will be raped and enslaved. Briseis is awarded to Achilles, whom she hates and fears.

link to NetgalleyAs the story of the war progresses, Barker builds a nuanced portrait of Achilles, his anger at Agamemnon, his Oedipal relationship with his goddess mother Thetis, his friendship with Patroclus. Although Achilles is not a sympathetic character, Briseis eventually becomes conflicted about him.

This is an interesting and affecting novel. It is completely unlike the only other novel I have read by Barker, but it makes me want to continue seeking out her books.

Related Posts

Toby’s Room

The Song of Achilles

House of Names

4 thoughts on “Day 1292: The Silence of the Girls

  1. Helen December 10, 2018 / 3:35 pm

    I enjoyed this too. I was surprised that there was so much focus on Achilles, as the title had made me expect that we would hear more female voices, but I still found it an interesting story.

    • whatmeread December 10, 2018 / 6:20 pm

      Yes, I thought that was a bit of a flaw.

  2. Davida Chazan December 14, 2018 / 4:28 am

    I don’t know the Iliad at all… maybe I should read this one! Thanks!

    • whatmeread December 14, 2018 / 10:34 am

      There are some very good translations out now, but it’s not for everyone.

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