Book Review | The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Hello bookish friends!

I hope you discovered something new this week. Although the week isn’t over yet, so there is still plenty of time to learn something new. This week’s book review is on The Silence of The Girls by Pat Barker.


“The defeated go down in history and disappear, and their stories die with them.”

The Silence of the Girls

I’ve probably mentioned this a few times, but re-tellings are some of my favorite stories to read. Hearing from the point of view of a side character in an otherwise well-known tale gives such fresh perspective. It’s also a way to find out about how the other characters and people lived, or what could have happened if they would have had more say. The Silence of The Girls is a re-telling of The Iliad (Trojan War) from the point of view of Briseis, one of the former queens of the many kingdoms in Troy, whose kingdom is conquered by the one and only Achilles. And OH MY GOSH, my heart was breaking into a million pieces just imagining how the women and children were being treated.


They’re the warriors, with their helmets and armour, their swords and spears, and they don’t seem to see our battles– or prefer not to. Perhaps if they realized we’re not the gentle creatures they take us for their own peace of mind would be disturbed?”

The Silence of the Girls

If any of you ever read the Iliad or taken a Humanities course on classicism or Greek mythology, or even watched the Brad Pitt version of Troy, then you KNOW how this story ends. Despite that, while reading I was honestly at the edge of my seat. I knew what was going to happen but because it was Briseis telling the story (and at some points Achilles and Patroclus), the story was fresh and enlightening. There were times when I doubted what would happen. There is a lot of foreshadowing on Achilles part, and at times I felt as Briseis did, conflicted. I wanted to feel bad for Achilles, and at times I did. But remember these are women who were ripped from their homes, abused of, and treated as things with no thoughts or feelings. I was torn from being able to fully grieve the Greek warriors and despising them. This makes the story all the more real though and makes us really think how history is told throughout time.



“Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles’s story; and I’d failed. Because, make no mistake, this was his story– his anger, his grief, his story. I was angry, I was grieving, but somehow that didn’t matter. Here I was, again, waiting for Achilles to decide when it was time for bed, still trapped, still stuck inside his story, and yet with no real part to play in it.”

The Silence of the Girls

Who is telling the story matters because the person telling the story paints it with the colors that they personally saw and experienced, not the person next to them. Lin Manuel had a point in the song “Who Tells Your Story” as Briseis says many times in her narrative as well. She realizes many times that the women who experienced the war, it will never be their story, it will be Achilles, or Odysseus, or even the scumbag Agememnon. This is why these stories are so important. The women and children suffered, immensely and although this is fictional, it isn’t any less real. We need to hear the other sides story if we are ever going to be able to paint a picture of an event fully.


“What will people make of us, the people of those unimaginable distant ties? One thing I do know: they won’t want the brutal reality of conquest and slavery. They won’t want to be told about the massacres of men and boys, the enslavement of women and girls. They won’t want to know we were living in a rape camp. No, they’ll go for something altogether softer. A love story, perhaps? I just hope they manage to work out who the lovers were.”

The Silence of the Girls

Despite the agony and the utter hopelessness of the situation, the women are resilient. They are strong in the only ways they know how to be. I highly recommend this book. I’m probably going to add it to my Top Shelf books because I believe it will be one I turn to time and time again.

Until next time my bookish friends.

Read Something Wonderful & Stay Curious.
Gisela

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