In Focus: The Silence of the Girls: A Novel by Pat Barker
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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.
“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
"An extraordinary novel... [and] the current debate about power and control in sexual relationships makes it a very timely one. If this doesn't make every serious literary prize shortlist, I'll be very surpised.”
— Alice O'Keefe,
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Pat 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.