The Silence of the Girls -Pat Barker


The Silence of the Girls was very high on my to read list. It was a book I was really looking forward to and it makes me so angry that it was such a let-down. Not that this book was in anyway badly written, but it is a book that claims to be something completely different from what it actually is. Such a let-down…


The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of Homer’s The Iliad and it claims to give a voice to all the woman and girls who were, quite essentially bounty in the Trojan War. And in the beginning the book delivered on that promise. We follow Briseis, who some of you might now from the blockbuster movie Troy, where she fell in love with Achilles.

I honestly think this story is a more accurate retelling of what might have happened with Briseis in that era. After her city Lyrnessus falls in the Trojan War Briseis is gifted as a prize to Achilles. But very soon she is caught up in a dispute between him and Agamemnon. Through the eyes of Briseis we follow life in the Greek camp and see what other retellings of the Trojan War don’s always show us. Woman cooking, serving wine, washing dead bodies, taking care of the wounded, being raped, being tortured… It is really the story of the woman at the Greek Camp.

Barker did a wonderful job bringing that part of the story. It is very raw and dark. It feels extremely real. And this was the story I was dying to read. I wanted to know all about the rats, the alcohol, the fighting. How the woman felt and how they took care of another.

But then halfway through the novel Barker throws in another perspective. The perspective of Achilles. And I felt betrayed, because suddenly it is all about Achilles and his redemption. It feels like Barker betrays her own book. A book that promised to be about the girls in the Trojan war. Those who were silenced in other retellings. What we get is another retelling of the Trojan War and its hero Achilles.

And to be honest… not the best retelling there is. I was willing to forgive the mediocre writing if it really was a feminist novel about woman in the war. But if you want another story about Achilles go read other authors who know how to bring a breath-taking account of the war and its heroes.

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