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The Silence of the Girls (2018)

av Pat Barker

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner / Omnämnanden
1,1647512,395 (4.01)1 / 229
"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, 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"--"The Iliad, as experienced by the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War"--… (mer)
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A fictionalization of a mythological story, the story behind the Trojan war. This time, though, it is told from the point of view of the women, specifically one woman who has to watch Achilles kill her husband and her brothers, and then becomes his slave, required to spend her nights in his bed. It is a different angle, but one that is not strange to those of us who often think about the women that just sort of get a mention in the stories. The details are well drawn out, in depth, and you can almost feel the dirty, hot camp where the Greeks have spent the past nine years. The men in the story are more realistic than the classic hero story, ranging from buffoons to highly skilled soldiers, monsters to men with the spark of human kindness who can inspire real devotion. The women are less drawn out, but this appears to be a feature; the feeling of them being subsumed into this faceless mass of slaves that the men use as they wish and discard is brought into sharper relief by the presence of only a few women that are "in color", so to speak. ( )
  Devil_llama | Jan 11, 2021 |
Good book. I'm a fan of Pat Barker anyway, and she handles the subject of war in fiction better than almost anyone else I've read. This is the Iliad, told from the perspective of the women of Troy. It's very readable, and gives a human point of view to a myth. Although it's fiction, I have the sense that Barker researched practices of the time, so it feels authentic. ( )
  meredk | Dec 19, 2020 |
A raw, important and strong tale that focuses on a minor character from the Iliad and not only causes us to rethink the story but also to see how the Iliad (and the Odyssey) can still speak to us today through various lenses. Barker has done a great job and I highly recommend it. ( )
  drew_asson | Dec 3, 2020 |
**SPOILERS**

this book is billed as being about a woman making her own story amongst the male-dominated narrative of the trojan war and if that was the book i'd read i would have probably enjoyed it a fair bit more. but it's not that book; halfway through, this becomes rather unambiguously a book about achilles. i found the messaging a little weird: this is about women's stories, but actually their stories can't stand alone without men's stories; this is about sisterhood, but all these old and ugly women hate me the beautiful young protagonist (this is deconstructed towards the end, but it's too little too late). briseis is a non-event of a character and her judgemental tone frustrated me throughout, but i thought, at least she's consistent! but then at the end she seems to go weirdly sideways on her principles, and not in a way that feels consistent with any character development, just like "oh btw my attitude has changed."

there was some very weird & self-aware metacommentary towards the end, as well, that really broke immersion for me. i hated the stuff at the end about "how will this story be remembered" - it was just over the top. and that's saying something, given the way the themes of myth and history are woven throughout the book, alongside the kind of blood and guts that people call "gritty realism." one of the most interesting things about this was the casual integration of myth into reality, a nod to magical realism. i liked that, but it was background noise, didn't do enough heavy lifting to redeem the book for me.

the only truly affecting moment in this book was patroclus' death; suddenly the writing took on this extra layer of depth and i was just absolutely captivated. but there was some weirdness there too: it felt like she was tiptoeing around achilles and patroclus' relationship with subtext, hinting at a carnal aspect to their relationship but never really committing to it. still - i did like patroclus in this, a lot. his entire character was really the best part.

all in all - i probably would've enjoyed this more if the blurb had said "this is an alternate telling of the trojan war, focusing on one woman and her relationship with achilles." cool! because that's all this was! what this wasn't is some great feminist fable; it's one thing to support women and write against patriarchal expectations, quite another to write a narrative that gives them interest and agency and compelling internal narratives that don't centre around men. this book succeeds at the former but not the latter, which to be fair is a particularly tall ask when writing about the trojan war... but like, idk, this didn't hit the target for me. ( )
  i. | Nov 28, 2020 |
I once got into a heated discussion with science-fiction writer Steven Barnes about whether or not it was appropriate to have women in the armed forces assume combat duties (which was beginning to happen at that time). The topic rated its own panel discussion at the convention, and it all started when Barnes declared that “any civilization that puts its baby-makers on the front lines is not going to survive.” I then pointed out that “baby-makers” have been on the front lines of virtually every conflict throughout history – they just weren’t allowed to carry weapons.

I do hope Mr. Barnes has read (or will read) Pat Barker’s [The Silence of the Girls], which centers around the ending days of the Trojan War but is told mostly from the viewpoint of a Trojan woman, captured when her city fell and awarded as a prize of war to Achilles.

Briseis was the daughter of one king and the wife of another, both orphaned and widowed when her city fell to the Greeks. Her rank, youth, and (according to legend) beauty made her a worthy trophy for the vain and high-tempered Achilles. Equally desirable was Chriseis, the young girl who was studying as an Apollonian priestess under the ministrations of her father, a priest, and who was awarded to Agamemnon. (Sorry about the Briseis/Chriseis name similarity. Blame it on Homer.) Chriseis’ father, having survived his city’s fall, comes to ransom back his daughter, and when the offer is refused a horrible plague strikes the camp. Agamemnon finally agrees to give the girl back, and sure enough the plague ceases. Only now he has no bed-warmer, and decides he is entitled by his kingly rank to take Briseis from Achilles. Remember back up there where we said “vain and high-tempered”? He does not take this insult well, and there is a falling-out that nearly changes the course of the war.

Readers familiar with the tale know where this is all going. Readers who have never been exposed to the world’s first grand soap opera don’t really need all the gory details to become intrigued by this character-driven novel.

Briseis deals with her captivity and sexual subjugation with a calm, remote manner. As distasteful as the whole thing is, it’s what happened to the women of vanquished Trojans and she doesn’t see much point in fussing about it. She also realizes that being the chattel of a powerful man is preferable to being an enslaved woman with no specific owner, and she does nothing to upset that particular apple cart. What she chafes under is simply the fact of slavery.

For a novel with the reality of rape at its core, [The Silence of the Girls] is remarkably tame. There are no detailed descriptions of any specific sex act, and Achilles’ relationship with Patroclus (long presumed to be his lover as well as his friend) is acknowledged in passing. Among the captive women there is a practical, matter-of-fact attitude and even an occasional joke about how to best accommodate the preferences of their owners and how to use their sexuality to better their social standing among the captive population. When it comes to the dialogue among warriors and the drinking songs of the troops, the language get considerably rougher. Who knew bronze-age Greeks had such an affinity for the F-bomb?

Which brings up one of the few quibbles the reader might have with the book. The dialogue is sometimes jarringly contemporary. Lines like “are you all right, mate?” and “you couldn’t bloody well wait for it” seem incongruous coming from a 1250 B.C. mouth. Yet what is an author to do? Too many times, when writing about this saga, authors have used mock-Shakespearean language or stilted, contraction-less patois that strips all personality, all reality, from the characters. In the end, one must simply acknowledge that Barker is a 21st-Century British author who has chosen to write the dialogue in 21st-Century British vernacular.

For this reader, that was overbalanced by the ways in which Barker has approached the brawling, petulant, meddling gods of the era.

While Briseis remains skeptical of the gods’ powers, she nonetheless doesn’t challenge them directly. When plague strikes the camp, she has long observed the increase in the rat population that preceded it. When Achilles’ mother, Thetis, is referred to as a sea goddess, she withholds judgement. But when the viewpoint shifts to Achilles, his belief in the gods’ powers is undeniable. The narration presents supernatural visitations from Thetis as perfectly normal occurrences, and the magical armor she brings him for the final battle of the war is as real to Achilles as the weapons from which it protects him.

Overall, this is a thought-provoking work that takes on the horrors of war as it impacts victor and vanquished, warrior and bystander alike. ( )
  LyndaInOregon | Oct 12, 2020 |
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“You know how European literature begins?” he’d ask, after taking the roll at the first class meeting. “With a quarrel. All of European literature springs from a fight.” And then he picked up his copy of The Iliad and read to the class the opening lines. “ ‘Divine Muse, sing of the ruinous wrath of Achilles…Begin where they first quarrelled, Agamemnon, the King of men, and great Achilles.’ And what are they quarrelling about, these two violent, mighty souls? It’s as basic as a barroom brawl. They are quarrelling over a woman. A girl, really. A girl stolen from her father. A girl abducted in a war.”

—The Human Stain, Philip Roth”
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For my children, John and Anna; and, as always,

in loving memory of David
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Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles…How the epithets pile up. We never called him any of those things; we called him “the butcher.”
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It was astonishing the way really quite intelligent women seemed to believe that if they carried their eyeliner beyond the outer corner of the lid and gave it a little upward flick, they'd have Helen's eyes. Or if they fastened their cinctures the same way she did hers, they'd have Helen's breasts. All this mindless imitation of a woman they affected to despise...No wonder she laughed at them.
Poor Mynes. His idea of female beauty was a woman so fat if you slapped her backside in the morning she'd still be jiggling when you got back home for dinner.
Yes, the death of young men in battle is a tragedy - I’d lost four brothers, I didn’t need anybody to tell me that. A tragedy worthy of any number of laments - but theirs is not the worst fate. I looked at Andromache, who’d have to live the rest of her amputated life as a slave, and I thought: We need a new song.
I thought: And I do what countless women before me have been forced to do. I spread my legs for the man who killed my husband and my brother
The defeated go down in history and disappear, and their stories die with them
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"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, 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"--"The Iliad, as experienced by the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War"--

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