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I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

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Max Hastings
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Ancient History comes alive

The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker

So to start a quick recap of Ancient History... Agamemnon and Achilles come from different backgrounds, but the war in Troy brings them together. ... Without Achilles, Agamemnon is losing. It isn't until Achilles' companion and best friend Patroclus is killed that Achilles rejoins the Trojan War. And Agamemnon, realizing that Achilles is needed, returns Briseis to him. What was all the fighting about? here is a synopsis According to classical sources, the war began after the abduction (or elopement) of Queen Helen of Sparta  by the Trojan prince Paris. Helen’s jilted husband Menelaus convinced his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to lead an expedition to retrieve her. Agamemnon was joined by the Greek heroes Achilles, Odysseus, Nestor and Ajax, and accompanied by a fleet of more than a thousand ships from throughout the Hellenic world. They crossed the Aegean Sea to Asia Minor to lay siege to Troy and demand Helen’s return by Priam, the Trojan king.

 

So a beautiful telling of an ancient story woven expertly into The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. However if we delve deeper this is more a novel about the women of those ancient times and how they were (mis) treated sold to the highest bidder to be abused, raped, discarded when their bodies and not their minds were of no further use. The narrator is Briseis who herself becomes involved in a love triangle/struggle between Agamemmon and Achilles. Through her eyes Barker strips away the hero qualities that have often been laid at the feet of Achilles and shows him for what she believes he is an intolerant butchering brute...."I'd been afraid ever since the cities of the Trojan plain started falling to Achilles; every burning, every sacking brought the war closer. But my fear that night was of an altogether different order, more sharply focused than it had ever been before. I knew my presence in the compound no longer reflected well on Amamemmon. Rather the opposite, in fact I was a constant reminder of the quarrel that had brought the Greek army to the brink of defeat. My only potential use, my only value to him- since he certainly didn't want me in his bed- had been as a possible bargaining chip in future negotiations with Achilles...."...."Achilles kept his word, everyone he promised Patroclus he did. He cut the throats of twelve Trojan youths, dragging their heads back by the hair and pulling his knife across their throats as quickly and cleanly as if they'd been goats".......

 

A lively colourful short novel with a profound message makes The Silence of the Girls a very enjoyable read that could possibly take the author in a different direction leaving the way open for many sequels. Recommended.