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Reviews of The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

The Women of Troy

by Pat Barker

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker X
The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2021, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2022, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Book Summary

A daring and timely feminist retelling of The Illiad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it--an extraordinary follow up to The Silence of the Girls from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Regeneration Trilogy.

Troy has fallen and the victorious Greeks are eager to return home with the spoils of an endless war--including the women of Troy themselves. They await a fair wind for the Aegean.

It does not come, because the gods are offended. The body of King Priam lies unburied and desecrated, and so the victors remain in suspension, camped in the shadows of the city they destroyed as the coalition that held them together begins to unravel. Old feuds resurface and new suspicions and rivalries begin to fester.

Largely unnoticed by her captors, the one time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles's slave, now belonging to his companion Alcimus, quietly takes in these developments. She forges alliances when she can, with Priam's aged wife the defiant Hecuba and with the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.

1

Inside the horse's gut: heat, darkness, sweat, fear. They're crammed in, packed as tight as olives in a jar. He hates this contact with other bodies. Always has. Even clean, ­sweet-­smelling human flesh makes him want to ­puke—and these men stink. It might be better if they kept still, but they don't. Each man shifts from side to side, trying to ease his shoulders into a little more space, all intertwined and wriggling like worms in a horse's shite.

Redworm.

The word sends him spiralling down; down, down, into the past, all the way back to his grandfather's house. As a ­boy—which is what some seem to think he still ­is—he used to go down to the stables every morning, running along the path between the tall hedges, breath curd­­ling the air, every bare twig glinting in the reddish light. Turning the bend, he would see poor old Rufus standing by the gate of the first ­paddock—leaning on it, more like. He'd...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss Briseis's relationship with Amina and how it develops throughout the book. Why is Briseis so determined to befriend Amina?
  2. How does Briseis's status as a married woman change her life at camp? What about her pregnancy?
  3. Helle has always been a slave, how does her perspective differ from the women who were previously free?
  4. Throughout the novel, women are underestimated: they are invisible, not seen as a threat, only believed when a man speaks for them. In what ways is this a blessing and a curse? How do the women use this to their advantage?
  5. Motherhood is an important theme in this book. Discuss the various mother-daughter and mother-son relationships both those that are biological and those that are not or are more metaphorical...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

When it focuses on the female characters, The Women of Troy is a quiet, subtle novel. In many ways, this project exemplifies what Barker proved in The Silence of the Girls: that she isn't interested in the battlefield, but rather, the unassuming moments that follow bloodshed. Unfortunately, Briseis's narration never fully justifies itself. Still, Barker's characters are so brilliantly drawn (Pyrrhus in particular is a marvelous addition), and her writing is so sharp that The Women of Troy is a pleasure to spend time with...continued

Full Review (689 words)

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(Reviewed by Rachel Hullett).

Media Reviews

Chicago Review of Books
Barker's writing is swift, detailed, and immersive… [The Women of Troy] succeeds at making us understand that what they felt—the grief of the Trojan women—cannot have been much different than our own.

New York Times
Barker seems to want to jolt readers out of the detachment that can accompany costume-drama language, plunging us straight into the timeless trauma of women who've witnessed the carnage of war... I'm not quite sure such an obvious verbal nudge was necessary, but what's more convincing is Barker's evocation of Briseis' struggle to survive...As Barker follows 'a thread of meaning through a labyrinth of fear,' her insight and compassion are on full display.

NPR
The Women of Troy is not Barker's best — it can feel simplistic in its understanding of good and evil...It is saved from being totally bleak, however, by Barker's blunt, often funny prose.

Refinery29
This continuation of the Trojan woman's story feels like another victory for every person who was silenced by history, their story stolen from them.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune
[T]he narrative is at its most absorbing when Briseis is on the page and observing the scheming and infighting among the Greek men and the resilience and bravery of the Trojan women. She is a wonderful creation. With luck, Barker is already planning her next move

The Washington Post
Barker's prose has a plain force more powerful than fancy wordsmithing; she makes these long-ago events immediate … More work from one of contemporary literature's most thoughtful and compelling writers is always welcome.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Barker's blunt, earthy prose strips the romance from Greek mythology, revealing its foundations in murder and oppression, yet she also understands—and conveys—the stark appeal of these ancient stories as she asks us to reconsider them through the eyes of their victims...the inconclusive close of this volume leaves readers hungry to know what happens next to a host of complex and engaging characters. Vintage Barker: challenging, stimulating, and profoundly satisfying.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] fiercely feminist take on Homer's Iliad...The author makes strategic use of anachronistic language...to illuminate characters living at the dawn of myth. Barker's latest is a wonder.

Booklist
Briseis is an engaging character, both pragmatic and perceptive, providing keen insight into monsters such as Pyrrhus, as well as the women of Troy.

Reader Reviews

Veronica

Brilliant book
First listened to it on Audible and then bought the hard copy. The writing is a tour-de-force. Characters are brought to life and plot developments are twisty. I’d have given it 5 stars but I felt let down by the ending. Still Briseus remarks at one ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cassandra of Troy

Painting of Cassandra standing in front of burning Troy by Evelyn De Morgan, 1898Like most stories and characters from Greek mythology, the exact origin of Cassandra of Troy is unknown, though she may have first appeared as a character in the Iliad, composed around the 8th century BCE, where she is described as "the fairest of Priam's daughters" and "fair as golden Venus" (in the English translation by Samuel Butler). These are the only references to Cassandra in Homer's tale, but clearly her story developed elsewhere, as now there is a much larger mythos surrounding her character. Details of Cassandra's story vary in different sources, but the blueprint of her narrative remains generally agreed upon.

Cassandra was the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, the king and queen of Troy during the city's invasion by the Greeks. ...

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Read-Alikes

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