The Silence of the Girls: Book summary and reviews of The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls

by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker X
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
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Book Summary

From the Booker Prize-winning author of the Regeneration trilogy comes a monumental new masterpiece, set in the midst of literature's most famous war. Pat Barker turns her attention to the timeless legend of The Iliad.

The Iliad, as experienced by the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War.

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, who continue to wage bloody war over a stolen woman - Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war's outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles's concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and cooly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate, not only of Briseis's people, but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war - the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead - all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis's perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker's latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives - and it is nothing short of magnificent.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The army camp, the warrior mindset, the horrors of battle, the silence of the girls - Barker makes it all convincing and very powerful. Recommended on the highest order." - Booklist

"The use of British contemporary slang in the dialogue is jarring, and detracts from the story's intensity. Yet this remains a suspenseful and moving illumination of women's fates in wartime." - Publishers Weekly

"[H]er dialogue, as usual, hums with intelligence. But unlike her World War I novels, the verisimilitude quickly thins...A depiction of Achilles' endless grief for Patroclus becomes itself nearly endless." - Kirkus

The Silence of the Girls is brilliant - fascinating, riveting and blood chilling in its matter-of-fact attitude toward war and those who are its spoils. I loved the book for its craftsmanship, as well is its wonderful evocation of the ancient world and the not-so-ancient minds of the people inhabiting it." - Diana Gabaldon

This information about The Silence of the Girls shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Reader Reviews

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Waveney Jenkins

Greek women brought to life
I have read quite a few retellings of the famous Trojan epics - but have never managed to untangle the mass of characters, or feel any understanding of how life was managed in those days - this book opens up the whole era. The characterisation, particularly of the women, is masterly. I do not know how Pat Barker has amassed her historical information, or how accurate it is - but it certainly brings a wonderful vividness and totally believable life to the whole story. I was gripped - and can still remember it all several weeks after I turned the last page, and reluctantly put the book down.

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Author Information

Pat Barker Author Biography

Par Barker is the author of Union Street, Blow Your House Down, The Century's Daughter, The Man Who Wasn't There, the Regeneration trilogy (Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road), Another World, Border Crossing, Double Vision, and the Life Class trilogy (Life Class, Toby's Room, and Noonday). She lives in Durham, England.

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