Review: The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker

the silence of the girls pat barker

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Genres: Fantasy, Mythology


The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Trojan War, in which Achilles is the godlike hero everyone remembers, told by the ones everyone forgets: the women. When her city falls, Briseis is given as slave to none other than Achilles himself and she is determined to survive.

It is quite inevitable to compare Circe and The Silence of the Girls, especially with both making it to the Shortlist of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019. Of the two, I loved Circe very much, and was rather lukewarm about this one.

I loved that this was a retelling of a Greek myth with a feminist twist, and also how Achilles’ mother, the sea nymph Thetis, makes an appearance and gets her own part in the story. I love the fantasy part of myths more than the people themselves, so I was pretty excited every time she showed up, and also about the small part of Apollo.

Briseis’ narration was a bit too modern-sounding sometimes and she sounded mostly righteous, cold and not with much personality throughout the story. Most of the warm feelings she does express are about Patroclus, which of course made me wrinkle my nose. I wanted to see more of the women, and would have loved this book a lot more if it was done with different POVs of different women in the story. As it was, with mostly Briseis telling the story but also a good part of it by Achilles and Patroclus, I didn’t feel very connected to it.

Because of this, the stakes were never too high for me. The entire story read to me in the same monotone, with small peaks of tension here and there, but I was never entirely enthralled and losing myself in the world, and with a slow-paced plot, I had hoped to love the characters enough to not care much for the plot.

Otherwise, I loved the premise of this book very much! I just hoped it would have been executed differently, although this might be my personal taste more than the book’s merits. If you love Greek myths, I’d say give this a chance – the other people I know who read this book really loved it.

6 thoughts on “Review: The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker

  1. This was the first book like this I read, and I read Circe right after it. In terms of stories I definitely preferred Circe, and kind of loved the fantastical elements that this book didn’t have as much of. I definitely agree with your comment about the women’s perspective, I would have loved to see more of the other women in the story if I’m honest. But I actually did really enjoy this book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! Most people I know who read it really enjoyed it, so I guess it’s a matter of personal taste. I love fantasy, so I also would have loved to have seen more fantastical elements in this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Reaction to 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner & Thoughts on the Longlist | Naty's Bookshelf

  3. Pingback: Books that disappointed me in 2019 | Naty's Bookshelf

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