Cover Image: The Women of Troy

The Women of Troy

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Member Reviews

I really struggled with this book, I just didn’t see the point and nothing seemed to happen.

I will still read other books by the author but I’m not amazed and if I read another disappointing one then I probably won’t bother again.
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There’s been a wave of books in recent years who have – finally – looked at the realities of the situation of circumstances like the aftermarth of Troy from the perspective of women. I’ve read as many of them as I can handle because, although they’re not easy reading, they’re important reading. Classics is finally starting to shift from being almost entirely male-dominated and dictated to being a bit more equal, and a bit more realistic. Prior to these books, it’s been very easy for people to discuss characters like Helen by simply calling her a whore and leaving it at that; to discuss the rape of hundreds of women and murder of hundreds of children by calling it war. Now, finally, we are starting to talk about what that really means.

Maybe it’s because of the current war footage we’re seeing that makes these conversations start, but whatever it is, they need to keep happening.

While this might be a work of fiction, it is well researched, and takes so much of its basis from the now factual and archaeological evidence of the Trojan war. Just before the pandemic closed everything down, I went to a display at the British Museum about Troy, actually, and it was both wonderful and horrifying all at once.

Within these pages, we see women faced with the most difficult of decisions, and the most brutal of situations, yet Pat Barker still manages to bring a beauty to her work that is a skill that very few possess. It’s a set of scales with brutality and beauty lining up for all to see. It’s not an exaggeration to say this book made me cry multiple times; the power of emotion that Barker navigates through the book is incredible, and is a sheer work of art.
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The sequel to Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls, The Women of Troy begins with the fall of that city. And what a beginning! An enigmatic, immersive opening full of potential violence, it sets the scene for the whole book. This is still Briseis's story, but now a new Greek joins the camp: Pyrrhus, Achilles's never-quite-good-enough son. 

Much of the pain in the book is caused by Pyrrhus's need to live up to his dead father's legend. He's a danger to many Greeks and most of the Trojans. As the tension builds among the Greek camp, prevented from going home by what seems like a supernatural storm, Briseis is (mostly) protected by being the wife of Alcimus, Achilles's loyal follower - and the fact that she's pregnant with the dead hero's child. But can she protect her fellow Trojan slave women? And how safe is she, really?

Instability and uncertainty run through this story. No-one is really safe. It's gripping, menacing, and often violent, but told with great sympathy and Briseis is a character it's impossible not to sympathise with, and root for.

Another triumph.
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<i>"Achilles' story never ends: wherever men fight and die, you'll find Achilles. And as for me - my story and his were inextricably linked."</i>

This second book in which Pat Barker is reimagining the Trojan War is fantastic. It follows on from Silence of the Girls and definitely leaves room for a third boom in the series which would need to veer further from the Epic Canon but which has been set up extremely well in these two books.

The characterisation of Briseis, our main narrator, continues to be exceptional. The reader really sees her throughout this book as someone stuck trying to make a life amongst the impossible. Briseis is pregnant with the baby of a man who owned her - no matter what she came to think of him, it was telling as to her state of mind how little she was able to connect to her unborn child which, as the legacy of godlike Achilles, was ultimately ensuring her survival throughout.

We see Briseis as she tries to help the Women of Troy. Though I would again say that the book could reflect more of an overall female perspective by having multiple female narrators, as I did with the first book, this is not to detract from the feat of writing that is achieved here. Through Briseis we get a very good understanding of the experience, the adaptability and potential for honour, heartbreak and survival of the many women she encounters and tries to help. Even the women she doesn't know or help, Briseis gives the reader eyes in the Greek camp seeing what life was like for them.

I particularly enjoyed the characterisation of Cassandra as someone reveling in the few short weeks she knew she would be held in high regard before her prophesied death. The view of Hecuba and Andromache as having lost so much and being unable to adapt was emotional and chilling.

Phyrrus, the young son of Achilles, in the main antagonist in this novel and he comes across as a complex, difficult teen struggling to lead men who have been at war almost as long as he has been alive. A young man struggling to follow in the footsteps of a father he never knew but is revered as a god. Literally. It's brilliantly done.

If you are interested in the Greek Canon, in the Homeric works and in retellings generally, this book is brilliant, but I would highly recommend you read it after Silence Of the Girls of its full impact and brilliance to really be seen as this does feel very much like a 'middle' book in a series.
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I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Despite it's title being "The WOMEN of Troy" the book opens with the Men of Greece inside the Trojan horse preparing for battle. It is indeed a very powerful opening and promised much for the book. I felt that the women's story told through the narrative of Briseis was varying in both the power of the narrative and it's ability to really fire my imagination. I really loved The Silence of the Girls but this one under delivered in my view.  I did struggle to finish  but feel overall it merits a 3 star ratin

I also had real problems with the language somw of which I doubt was used in the mythological period. I felt the author used it to shock and maybe to brutalise further the males in the storyline. However when used by the women it merely served to make them less likeable.
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The quality of the writing is superb; the opening chapter ,told as Pyrrhus waits inside the wooden horse ,is particularly memorable. For all that the story is set so long ago, it feels very modern and is still relevant to women who are victims of war in the present day.
It seems that there will be a third book to continue the story ,which I will look forward to reading.
Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Excellent read!

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Absolutely loved this.  Pat Barker really brings history to life and this retelling of Troy is like being there!  It opens with drama.  I know the story, but I’ve never considered it from the unique perspective that Pat Barker takes…the opening passages from inside the horse are amazing.  The sense of claustrophobia is almost palpable, along with the smells and the heat.  Not an angle I’d ever considered and that kind of imagined detail is what makes these books so vivid.

They are, of course, based on fact with real people and events.  But the individuals are brought to life so memorably and at the same time, the events are given historical context and meaning.  The scope of Pat Barker’s writing is  phenomenal and the research meticulous.  From the trilogy of books about the First World War, to step back to Ancient Greece and do so with confidence is amazing.  Vivid, visceral and memorable.  Cant ask for more from a book!

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.
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Aw I’m a sucker for a female perspective mythical retelling. And there are a fair few of them out there at the moment so lucky me.

The Women of Troy retells the immediate aftermath of the Trojan War, post-Achilles, through the eyes of Briseis and is the sequel to Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls.

I loved The Silence of the Girls when I read it a few years ago and so I had high hopes for The Women of Troy, which I’m happy to say were lived up to. Barker has a beautifully engaging way of writing and I’m very here for it. I read the Iliad at University, I know the story of Achilles and the Trojan War well and for me this was the perfect continuation of a refreshing new perspective, giving a voice to the silenced women who were at the centre of one of the most famous Greek myths. 

If you liked The Silence of the Girls, this is a no-brainer, you must read. If you haven’t read it, read it now and then pick this one up immediately afterwards. You won’t regret it!
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We pick up the story of Briseis from where the incredible The Silence of the Girls leaves off. Briseis is pregnant with the recently deceased Achilles’ child but now married to Alcimus, and therefore still has a prominent position amongst the women in the Greek camp. Troy has fallen but unfavourable winds compel the Greek fighters to remain camped on the beach, unable to leave the place in which they have been at war for the past ten years. We follow Briseis and her relationships with others in the camp as they settle into life with the new status of the Greeks as victors.

This tale also follows the stories of characters who were far less prominent or absent from the previous book. Andromache and Cassandra are fascinating here, as are other “slave” women who find themselves at the mercy of their Greek captors following the sacking of Troy. The male POV which was held by Achilles in the previous book is here taken up by his son Pyrrhus, whose own insecurities about trying and failing to live up to his father’s legacy result in brutal, mean-spirited actions that are riveting as they are appalling.

This is another beautiful retelling of ancient myths for modern times. The characters are so believable, and their interactions feel very real. While I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the previous instalment, that is perhaps because the source material isn’t quite as compelling. Either way, I look forward to the next one!

My thanks to the author, NetGalley, and the publisher for the arc to review.
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I enjoyed this account of a women’s perspective of what happened. 

It is cleverly nuanced and easy to read and become immersed in. 

A definite recommendation.

Many thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for gifting me this arc in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
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‘We women are peculiar creatures. We tend not to love those who murder our families.’

The Women of Troy is Pat Barker’s sequel to The Silence of the Girls, picking up from where it left off after Troy has fallen, and a feminist retelling of the Illiad. I had a couple of criticisms of Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, mainly with the narration as I felt that Achilles’ POV - that was included towards the end of the book - overshadowed the female voices and invaded the female space I believed the book was trying to create. I understood why Barker chose to include it as it further added to the depiction of his brutality and provided an opposition to the hero status he is often given however, as it was a relatively short book I wished that all our time was spent with Briseis or other women present in the camp. However, everything I wanted from The Silence of the Girls, The Women of Troy delivered.

I had concerns when I first started this book as it opens with a male POV (belonging to Pyrrhus, Achilles’ son) and I worried it would take away from the focus on the female characters. However, I did not find that any of the brief male POVs took away from the female voices at all and instead added an insight to the impact of patriarchy on both the men and the women. The male POVs never alluded to heroism and instead betrayed insecurity which provided an explanation of their behaviour, both towards the women and in interactions in general; brute like, disrespectful and constantly trying to prove their strength, power and status.

I immensely enjoyed Barker’s writing style and choices she made throughout this book. The choice to use quite up to date and simple language in my opinion made this feminist retelling of the Illiad so accessible and as a result extremely poignant even to a reader with little knowledge of mythology. She frequently manipulates language to create incredibly visual sensory descriptions of the settings and events that take place but at the same time manages to portray female experience through singular words and often quite simple metaphors and symbols. For example, the women repeatedly liken themselves to animals - crows in chapter 3, swallows in chapter 4, a slug in chapter 11 and Cassandra even likens herself to a goat which was a common sacrifice - a clear way for Barker to show the extent of the dehumanisation the women feel and how this in turn affects the way they view themselves. 

Another example of Barker’s presentation of the female characters I loved was the ways she gave them both a voice and a platform. As the novel progresses, although subject to constant oppression, we see them gain confidence in their speech which I found specifically poignant in this dialogue from a confrontation between Briseis and Alcimus.
‘"Look, she just said Priam deserved a proper burial. It’s only what any Trojan would have said." "Any Trojan fighter." "Do you think women have no views? No loyalties?" "A woman’s loyalty is to her husband."’
As well as articulating their opinions we see the women’s wit and there are many times when their speech is humorous and sarcastic. I found this an extremely powerful reminder that they were not just victims but individuals. Furthermore, despite their shared experience they all have different priorities, coping strategies and respond to situations in different ways.

This is a novel about female community that encompasses both friendship and maternal relationships. What I found most poignant was that whilst many of the women become mothers, they remain more maternal towards each other than their own children, as these children connect them to their abusers. I believe that Barker created a female space more effectively in this novel than in The Silence of the Girls and can’t wait to see what she does next.
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I loved the first book in this series & couldn't wait to read this one.  But I have to be honest, I was slightly disappointed with this one.  The plot is largely similar to The Women Of Troy, but with less drama or excitement.
However, it's great to revisit the characters once again, as they are still perfectly formed and the interactions remain poised & just moments of joy to savour.

This was a real joy to read, once again the setting and the characters bring the story to life for the readers to just read & believe.
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I read and loved The Silence of the Girls a couple of years ago and this sequel, The Women of Troy, is just as good.

Picking up from where The Silence of the Girls ended, we follow Briseis as she has survived her time with Achillies and has been married to Alcimus, despite carrying the child of the hero Achillies. Through her eyes, we see the Greek army camp as they wait for the wind to change so they can escape from Troy after their victory and  slaughter of all of the Trojan men.

The story focuses on the Trojan women and how they managed, both emotionally and physically after the terrible tragedies they have suffered. Briseis was a really engaging narrator - she felt both balanced and observant - but giving such detail of the women she came across and her desire to help them.

I thought this was one of the best Greek myth tellings I have read (and there have been an awful lot published over the last few years). It gave the traditional stories new life and a new perspective while still retaining the detail and terror of the original stories. An excellent book!
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Told mainly from the point of view of Briseis, former prize of the now dead Achilles, this novel portrays in all its claustrophobic intensity the immediate aftermath of the Trojan War, where the Greek victors wait impatiently for the weather to change to allow them to go home.  The virtual imprisonment of the Trojan women, shared out as victors’ spoils to a life of slavery, whether for labour or as concubines is vividly realised, with all the possibility for sisterhood and rivalry this entails.  When the narrative switches to the third person, the focus is on Achilles’ son Pyrrhus, more in tune with the horses he loves than with fellow humans, and tortured by the impossibility of living up to the legend of the father he never knew.
Strong characterisation grounds characters from Greek mythology in a credible reality, with human fears and motives with which readers can empathise.  The constant fear and insecurity of life in a society where violence is commonplace and sacrifices are made to satisfy the perceived will of the gods is deftly conveyed, as is the terrible stress of living under enemy occupation.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which has rekindled my interest in the Greek mythology that fascinated me as an adolescent.  A very satisfying and entertaining read.
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Thank you to netgalley and Penguin for giving me an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I would like to first mention a quick content warning as sexual assault is discussed fairly frequently. 

I was really excited to get into this book, because I have adored Madeline Miller's retellings and assumed this might be along the same lines. I haven't read The Silence of the Girls, but I have read one of Pat Barker's Regeneration books. Her writing style is very different to MM's, a lot less lyrical and much more frank and realistic. It felt a lot like a domestic novel.

I enjoyed hearing from the women's point of view as this is rare in these sorts of stories. I found it particularly interesting to hear from Briseis due reading about her in MM's The Song of Achilles, and I thought PB created a very strong sense of character for her. The other character I liked was Hecuba, I think the novel would have maybe fallen short without characters like her. 

I was worried about getting confused with names etc as my Greek mythology knowledge isn't particularly strong, but as most characters were well fleshed out it wasn't too difficult to follow along, but I did struggle to know who had what status. This wouldn't be an issue if you have more contextual knowledge than me, though!

I found myself drawn into the novel very quickly and the start was very well paced. However I did feel like the events do slow down and the ending falls a little flat. I was definitely waiting for more. I would have also liked more of a follow up on the events based on Amina, as it is brushed over afterwards and I expected more of an impact on Briseis.

I would recommend to those who are into mythology, but it is definitely a slower paced novel. That being said, I found it easy to read and I did enjoy it.
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The Women of Troy is devastating and brutal, Pat Barker breathes humanity into her retelling of these characters. Briseis describing the immediate aftermath of the fall of Troy gives vital new perspective on this moment. Throughout the book Barker reiterates the men’s lack of imagination that the women they capture might have any independent will and uses the ever observant Briseis to reveal the many complex emotions, actions and motives that drive the women. The relationships of changing status, from royalty to slavery, slavery to marriage, and slavery by Trojans to slavery by Greeks, reveals at once how human reaction doesn’t change all that much and how alien the rules of this world are to us. Barker refuses to shy away from the cruelty, dispassionate violence and misogyny present in the camps but also finds moments of sympathy, we are reminded that Pyrrhus who is celebrated by his men for his murder, rape and pillaging is just 16 years old living in the shadow of the greatest hero the Greeks ever had. I devoured this book, there are obviously parallels with Madeline Miller’s Somg of Achilles and Circe anyone that enjoyed those or simply loves Greek myth should read this.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book. I loved The silence of the girls from Pat Barker, so when I saw The women of Troy available on Netgalley and got accepted I was over the moon! 

But, it wasn't what I had expected at all. I am a huge lover of anything mythology related and retellings, but this fell down the line for me. 

It took a lot to get into it and it was very slow-paced. For how excited I was to read more about the women on the sides of this famous war, it felt like not much really happened. What I disliked most, was the wording. I was very impressed of the word building from the first book but this felt very much like a person from our age speaking and not a woman at the time of Troy's fall.
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I really enjoyed Pat Barker's initial book in this series,  The Silence of the Girls, so was really excited to see there would be a story following the events after Achilles has fallen. Even more exciting than that was the prospect of being provided with a sort of behind-the-scenes look at the women who struggled throughout the fallout the days after, because that probably was the only thing missing from the previous book.

The Women of Troy falls very short, however. It absolutely centres on the women, which is great because it's not typical to have opportunities to imagine what might have happened to them. But it is also incredibly boring, and a total non-event. 

There are two distinct failings with this book for me: the narrative voice and the pacing. Pat Barker sadly falls into a bit of a habit of using language or sentence construction (in which she misses words out as per the Yorkshire dialect) which gives away her Yorkshire roots. I wouldn't mind this at all in another story, but a story set in Troy? With Yorkshire prose used by the Trojans? I don't think that works, and it completely pulled me out of the story and reminded me that it was just a story. 

The pacing was hugely problematic. By 50% I can confidently say that absolutely nothing happened. Whilst Barker does a brilliant job of capturing the callous treatment of women, and their unfortunately invisible nature during this time (presumably!), she fails to weave this into a compelling story. It needed a plot which propelled the narrative whilst showcasing these things, rather than purely showcasing the role of women and having no plot whatsoever.

A really disappointing sequel for me, from a much beloved first book. 

ARC provided from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This is Pat Barker’s second instalment in her retelling of the Iliad. The story begins where The Silence of the Girls ended - our narrator, the brave and wonderful Briseis. 

In this book, she finds herself married to Alcimus, no longer a slave, but carrying her dead lover, the legendary Achilles’ son.  We meet Achilles brutal son, Pyrrhus,  who defies the Gods through his treatment of Priam, which will hold great consequence. We are also reminded of the ‘Trojan Women’ - Hecuba, Andromache, Cassandra and of course, Helen herself and their different roles in their respective camps.

I loved this retelling and it’s personal narrative voice, considering the will to survive and the difficulties faced during times of peace as well as war.  Just wonderful!
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A story beginning at the very end of the siege of Troy, this book deals with the aftermath of 10 years of battle as the victorious Greek leaders wait for the wind to change so they can sail home.
Meanwhile, the captive women of Troy are enduring their own storms. Forced to witness the brutal slaying of their beloved fathers, brothers, lovers, husbands and even infant sons, once proud women like Hecuba, Cassandra and Andromache have been parcelled out as spoils of war among brave but brutal men like Odysseus, Agamemnon and Pyrrhus, son of the great Achilles.
Told through the eyes of Briseis, the late Achilles' concubine-slave, this story explores the women's resilience amid their struggle to survive the trials they've endured, including the loss of their freedom. But though their lives and bodies are broken, their spirits remain whole as they adapt to a very different life.
Homer's once heroic leaders have their own demons, too. They're as much slaves as the women, captive to their own fears and self-doubt.
I was utterly engrossed by this retelling of just one aspect of the Trojan war. With rich descriptive writing, the author captures the atmosphere of classical times, with its battles among men, gods and demi-gods, yet makes them accessible to the modern reader through the portrayal of men and women no different to ourselves in their hopes, fears and dreams of escaping the shadows of Troy's black and broken towers.
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