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The Silence of the Girls

by Pat Barker

Historical Fiction

LoveReading View on The Silence of the Girls

In The Iliad, the Trojan War is a battle between men over Helen, a stolen woman. The Silence of the Girls centres on another stolen woman, Briseis, queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms until Achilles pillaged her city, murdered her husband and made her his concubine. And she’s not the only one. Countless women have been snatched from their homes and face the same subjugation, and this powerful novel chimes with a chorus of women’s voices from all walks of life. 

Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Briseis herself is an engaging narrator, her words vital, visceral and potent: “Blood, shit and brains – and there he is, the son of Peleus, half beast, half god, driving on to glory.” Her enforced move from queen to captive sees her fight for freedom in a blaze of witty, relatable commentary: “I’m supposed to just put up with it and say nothing, and if I do try to talk about it, it’s ‘Silence becomes a woman’”. And her disclosure that Achilles was called “the butcher” through a sea of oft-cited indulgent praise for him reveals a key thread of this novel. Namely, that accounts of history are often one-sided and therefore do not tell the entire truth. Gripping, smart and brilliantly imaginative, this is a richly relevant re-telling.

Joanne Owen

The Silence of the Girls Synopsis

There was a woman at the heart of the Trojan war whose voice has been silent - till now. Briseis was a queen until her city was destroyed. Now she is slave to Achilles, the man who butchered her husband and brothers. Trapped in a world defined by men, can she survive to become the author of her own story? Discover the greatest Greek myth of all - retold by the witness history forgot. 

The Silence of the Girls Press Reviews

'[Pat Barker] is one of our finest modern chroniclers of war...this magisterial novel is both a timely exploration of power, misogyny and violence and an elegant counternarrative to one of literature's founding conflicts.' - The Guardian

The magic of Barker's book is that the resonance of giving silenced women a voice at the centre of the story is just as relevant today - Grazia

The most important novel based on The Iliad so far this century - Edith Hall

Giving voice to the voiceless, this is a gripping feat of imagination that succeeds in being relevant today - Woman and Home

An impressive feat of literary revisionism that should be on the Man Booker longlist... This is a story about the very real cost of wars waged by men... Barker makes us re-think history - Independent

She gives a voice to the voiceless...The Silence of the Girls is a book that will be read in generations to come - Daily Telegraph

An important, powerful, memorable book that invites us to look differently not only at The Iliad but at our own ways of telling stories about the past and the present, and at how anger and hatred play out in our societies - Guardian

An assured triumph - Sunday Times

Its magnificent final section can't help but make you reflect on the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, the women throughout history who have been told by men to forget their trauma... You are in the hands of a writer at the height of her powers - Evening Standard

Angry, thoughtful, sad, deeply humane and compulsively readable, The Silence of the Girls shows that 36 years after her first novel was published, Barker is a writer at the peak of her powers - Irish Times

A stunning return to form - Observer

A searing twist on The Iliad... Amid the recent slew of rewritings of the great Greek myths and classics, Barker's stands out for its forcefulness of purpose and earthy compassion... Chilling, powerful, audacious - The Times

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780241338070
Publication date: 30/08/2018
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780241338070
Publication date: 30th August 2018
Author: Pat Barker
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback
Genres: Historical Fiction,
Collections: 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction - Women’s Words, 50+ Beautifully Written Books, 40+ Novels That Feature Friendship,

About Pat Barker

Pat Barker was born in 1943. Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy, comprising Regeneration (1991); which was made into a film of the same name; The Eye in the Door (1993), which won the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road (1995), which won the Booker Prize, as well as the more recent novels Another World, Border Crossing, Double Vision, Life Class and Toby’s Room. She lives in Durham.

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