Cover Image: The Women of Troy

The Women of Troy

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Member Reviews

Amongst the wave of retellings of classic Greek epics in recent years, Pat Barker's previous title, Silence of the Girls stood out for its feminist approach to the Trojan War, historically a rather hyper-masculine affair. Yet, while Barker's latest work The Women of Troy attempts to continue this trend, this time exploring the aftermath of the Greek's raid of Troy, one can't help but notice a troubling pattern in Barker's work. Whilst they appear to offer largely "untold" female perspectives of these mythological events, both Silence of the Girls and now The Women of Troy resort to an unnecessary male perspective for portions of its storytelling. The  use of this male narrator sadly reads as though Barker was unable to commit to the under-explored story of these women and the tribulations they face, in favour of the classic, more well-known misadventures of their male counterparts.

That is not to say I did not enjoy The Women of Troy. Much like its predecessor, I continue to find Barker's work incredibly engaging and a worthwhile venture both for those familiar with Greek mythology, or those wanting to find an accessible avenue into it. Barker's writing is easy to digest and breaks down some of the beefy and troubling complexities of mythology and history into something that is simultaneously more laid-back yet also provoking in regards to its mirror-reflection of gender imbalances in modern societies. 

The Women of Troy is definitely worth picking up, though its promise of commitment to a female-narrated perspective of the Trojan War and its aftermath should be taken with a grain of salt.
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Thanks to Penguin UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

‘The Women of Troy’ is a direct sequel to Barker’s 2018 ‘The Silence of the Girls’. Euripides’ ‘Trojan Women’ is probably my favourite Greek tragedy, so I was slightly miffed that Briseis is again the main character and narrator of this story seeing as she isn’t in the ‘original’. I guess I don’t find Briseis the most compelling character that the book could have focused on, but I imagine Barker wanted to continue where she started so here we are.

For anyone unfamiliar with the story, The Women of Troy tells the story of the Trojan women after the defeat of Troy in the Trojan War. The characters you would expect to be here are present, Hecuba, Andromache, Helen and Cassandra, and a few new insertions including most notably Amina, a slave girl. The book makes no bones about the women’s desperate situation and the degradation of their surroundings and situation. Barker’s choice of language is deliberately brutal and sometimes crude with the sometimes rather incongruous use of modern dialogue present in the first book. There is little room for joy here, this is a tale of the horrors of war

Some of the characterisations jarred a bit for me. Andromache, consumed by grief for her lost husband and child was portrayed well although she felt a bit one dimensional and weak at times. I definitely would have liked to see more from Hecuba, she is such an iconic character and the heart of the original and her rage felt muted here through her lack of presence in the story. The character of Amina felt to me like a riff on Antigone, with an extremely similar story. I am not convinced that her inclusion really added anything to the story to be honest.

Maybe the baggage of such a well-known tale compounded by my own love for this particular story has made me overly picky. I personally felt that despite this being a story about the female victims of war, much of it felt centred on the men. The ghost of Achilles, in particular, hangs over everyone. I’m sure this is deliberate, but it struck me as a bit strange in such a female-focused story. 

It’s a Pat Barker book so it is already going to be of a higher calibre than lots of other books and mythology reimaginings so these points are niggles to me rather than serious criticism
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Whilst I loved the first book in this series, THE WOMEN OF TROY failed to capture my imagination in quite the same way. Perhaps it was simply a case of right book, wrong time.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I wouldn’t normally choose to read books in this genre, but it now makes me want to read more about Greek mythology. Very good indeed!
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The Women of Troy is the riveting, long-awaited sequel to Barker’s 2018 epic The Silence of the Girls. It's a daring and timely feminist retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it— from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Regeneration Trilogy. Troy has fallen and the victorious Greeks are eager to return home with the spoils of an endless war—including the women of Troy themselves. They await a fair wind for the Aegean. It does not come, because the gods are offended. 

The body of King Priam lies unburied and desecrated, and so the victors remain in suspension, camped in the shadows of the city they destroyed as the coalition that held them together begins to unravel. Old feuds resurface and new suspicions and rivalries begin to fester. Largely unnoticed by her captors, the one time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles's slave, now belonging to his companion Alcimus, quietly takes in these developments. She forges alliances when she can, with Priam's aged wife the defiant Hecuba and with the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.

This is an exquisite and masterful continuation of Barker’s feminist slant on the Trojan War and Homer’s Iliad after the city of Troy has fallen after being besieged for a decade and the Greeks have won the war. The story, more character as opposed to plot-driven, is told predominantly from the perspective of Briseis, who does not hold back in her descriptions of the violence inflicted on her own and other women’s bodies. The men are depicted as almost the antithesis of heroes: as captors, slave owners and of individuals who devalue the lives of the women around them. 

Barker has transformed what was once a supernatural fable of heroism during wartime into an age-old exploration of female subjugation. It's a powerful, important and memorable book that tells of the desire the Trojans had to avenge the war, especially royals Hecuba and Cassandra who are now enslaved. It's engrossing and gritty and is peopled by a large and idiosyncratic cast who come alive on the page before you. She not only uses blunt prose but also anachronistic phrasing which updates the story for the current audience and creates a different atmosphere to the original. This is fiction at its finest - challenging, deeply satisfying and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
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With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance review copy.

This novel is the sequel to 2018's The Silence of the Girls, which told the story of the ninth year of the Trojan War from the point of view of Briseis. Briseis, the 19-year-old wife of the king of the sacked Trojan city of Lyrnessus, watched her family being slain by Achilles and was then given to him as a slave. 

In this sequel, Achilles is dead and the story opens with his 16-year-old son Pyrrhus packed into the belly of the wooden horse, brainchild of cunning Odysseus, with hundreds of other Greeks, waiting to be drawn into Troy in order to mount the final devastating attack in this 10-year war which has decimated both sides. Pyrrhus never knew his father but bears the weight of the Myrmidons', and indeed all the Greeks', expectations to follow in the footsteps of his exalted father. Eager to prove himself, he is the one to break into the palace and kill Priam, king of Troy, but he fluffs the killing of the old man and hacks him to death clumsily in front of his wife Hecuba. But women have no voice as witnesses, and he is hailed as a worthy successor to his father when he drags Priam's body back to the Greek camp and refuses to give it a decent burial. Meanwhile, as in all wars since time immemorial, the women of Troy are fair game for the victors - raped, their babies slaughtered, taken into slavery like Briseis before them and given as spoils to the men who killed their loved ones, expected to keep their huts clean, serve at their tables and warm their beds. 

As in the first novel, the main narrative voice is that of Briseis, with third-person narration to fill in the gaps where she could not convincingly be present. Pregnant with Achilles’ child, she is now married to his loyal Myrmidon Alcimus and as such has a great deal more agency than she did as a mere slave. She takes it upon herself to try to ease the lot of the newly captured women, including Queen Hecuba, her daughter Cassandra, and Hector’s wife - all proud women who do not find it easy to accept their new lowly status. Meanwhile the Greeks are idle and eager to set off for home after ten long years, only to be stuck in their camp because of terrible winds that won't allow them to set sail. A curse from the gods for sacrileges committed during and after the sack of Troy?

As you would expect from Pat Barker, the narrative is always interesting and the female perspective likewise. However, perhaps because not very much actually happens, I found this sequel rather static, much like the Greeks trapped in their camps. The Trojan women are not very well developed as characters; the story of female survival in an enemy camp was dealt with effectively in the first novel and I didn't feel there was anything new in this one. The most interesting part is the character development of Achilles' son Pyrrhus, who is a raw, rejected 16-year-old sho0uldering the weight of impossible expectations at the beginning - by the end, he is starting to show signs that he may yet emerge from his revered parent's shadow to become his own man.  But this is almost a side story - a pity, as I think much more could have been done with this. 

So - competent, but not outstanding.
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I loved The Silence of the Girls and this second book is just as good. With Troy's fall and utter devastation, the women left face uncertain futures at the hands of their captors, the Greeks, and the brutality and reality of this situation comes across incredibly well. How different personalities adapt or not to the new circumstances, their losses and in many cases changed social standing are both beautifully and sensitively done. This is equally true of the Greeks and makes for a well imagined assessment of the war's aftermath told from another perspective.
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I was so excited to receive an arc copy of this book. Having read Barker’s previous book “The Silence of the Girls” and being familiar with the story of Troy from my days studying classical literature and history at university, I was excited for what the next chapter would hold. 
 
I thoroughly enjoyed how Barker managed to encapsulate the feeling of liminality within the camp, and how this infused into her writing and storytelling. The Greeks were stuck in limbo, waiting for a favourable wind to carry them onto Greece and you could really feel the mounting tensions and frustrations in the camp spilling over into the storylines of these women 

I also enjoyed how Barker didn’t pander to the traditional storylines of these women, giving them autonomy to tell their own stories and give themselves their own characters. I particularly enjoyed the storyline of Cassandra who I feel is often depicted as a quiet girl who is victimised and unable to do anything about it. In this story we still see her as victim however also having a certain strength within her enslavement, using her power of prophecy as a means to an end and accepting her situation in order to bring about the ending of Agamemnon. I also like the underlying vulnerability of Helen which we do not usually see, even in modern feminist retellings. 
 
We also see acceptance and grief as main themes within this book. We see the gradual underlying acceptance of the camp as the women’s new home. This is evidenced when we see Briseis taking a trip to the ruins of Troy and somehow wanting to be back in the confines of the camp. The familiar has now become unfamiliar and what was once civilised has now become barren and wild. Barker manages this transition very smoothly almost to the point where you don’t notice it is happening. 
 
I also found it useful to have some of the masculine dialogue and tales from the men woven throughout this storyline. It gives us the other side of the coin so to speak and also highlights to us the problems these women faced by seeing the motivations and the desires of the men in the camp. By knowing the unpredictability of Pyrrhus and the misunderstanding of Calchus, we are able to see why these women struggled and what they were up against. Even though it is a feminist retelling I feel to truly understand what these women went through, the male voice needs to be included at some point. 

I did however find some of her language problematic such as the use of the word “retarded”. However this is one of the few things I noticed, overall I enjoyed the book greatly.
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I was so excited to get an ARC of this after reading and loving The Silence of the Girls a few years ago! I was so happy that Barker decided to write a sequel about Briseis and the other women in the story of the Trojan war as many versions of the story (including the Illiad itself) end with the death of Hector and then Achilles and seem to forget that this was far from the end of the war, especially for the women. It was super interesting seeing the turmoil in Briseis character develop as she takes on a maternal role over the new women brought to the camp after the sack of Troy, while internally feeling no maternal instinct for the child of Achilles she’s carrying. I also really enjoyed Barker’s exploration of Neoptolemus/Phyrrus (even though his parts were often gruesome and difficult to read) there’s quite little known about him in comparison to his father so it was nice to see him get his moment in a way. Although this is a continuation of Briseis’ story the other main women from Troy, Cassandra, Andromache, Hecuba, etc, all feature heavily in this book too but I loved that Barker chose to show the real cost of the war not through the royal women who lost their status but in the lower class women such as Amina and Maire for whom life now is much more dangerous. I really hope there’s a third book in this series coming because there’s so much more I want to know, particularly the fate of Helenus and what happens when Briseis gives birth!
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Pat Barker: The Women of Troy

If you have read Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls – and you really should have read it before reading this one – you will recall that it tells the story of Briseis. Briseis was from Lyrnessus, a small settlement near Troy, where she was a royal. The town was conquered by the Greeks before they turned their attention to Troy. Briseis was captured by Achilles and became his slave and sex toy. However when Agamemnon has to give up his trophy – Chryseis – to appease the Gods he decides to take Bryseis instead. Achilles is understandably upset and refuses to fight. The Trojans now gain the ascendant. Achilles’ friend Patroclus is killed so he returns to the fray and gets Briseis back.

Just before he dies, Achilles marries off Briseis to Alcimus and this is where we are at the beginning of the book.

The Silence of the Girls, while telling the story of Briseis and other women, follows the action as described in The Iliad. However The Iliad does not cover the more famous events such as the death of Achilles and the Wooden Horse, Indeed it ends before the fall of Troy. Our knowledge of those events comes from other sources, primarily Virgil’s Aeneid but also other classical texts. Barker does describe some of what happens after the fall of Troy in The Silence of the Girls. However, this novel is all set during and after the fall of Troy and therefore much of it (though certainly not all) is entirely speculation by Barker.

The book actually opens as the Greek warriors are hiding out in the Wooden Horse. They are getting thirsty, the latrine buckets are filling up and they are, of course worried whether their cunning plan will succeed. The Greeks have been told they need to do three things to take Troy and one of them is that Achilles’ son must be there. Neoptolemos, known here by his nickname Pyrrhus (= red), is still fairly young but he is in the horse. He is one of the first out. He knows the secret passageways and it is he who gets to Priam’s chamber and, with difficulty, kills the old man, though later boasting of his prowess.

Briseis is not surprisingly not happy that the Greeks have taken Troy though, as the wife of a lord, she is a free woman, unlike most of the others who are now slaves and trophies for the Greeks. When she goes out she is accompanied by Amina as the camp is rough and Alcimus does not want her to be alone. She has relatively little to do. Unike Achilles, Alcimus does not entertain much and nor does he apparently have sex with her. She is, however, pregnant by Achilles.

We follow Briseis and Amina as they wander round the camp. On the beach, they find the dead body of Priam, with crows eating out his eyes. Amina wants to bury him, as the sand is soft but Briseis is opposed. I’d just be doing what women have always done, Amina comments.

Briseis also visits Helen (yes, that Helen), as Briseis’ sister Ianthe was a friend of Helen but has now disappeared. Indeed, she seems to do a tour of legendary Trojan women as she also visits Andromache, Hector’s widow, Hecuba, Priam’s widow and Cassandra, Priam’s daughter. (Though Cassandra does feature here, there is another feminist book about her.)

Helen does not come out well. The whole camp resented his [Menelaus] taking her back. Greek fighters and Trojan slaves united in one thing and one thing only: hatred of Helen. Menelaus had sworn so many times he was going to kill her – the minute he set eyes on her again! Then, that he was going to take her back to Argos and let the women stone her to death – and there’d have been no lack of volunteers. However, according to legend, she survived.

Apart from Briseis’ visits to the various women, there are three main linked plot strands. One is the burial and unburial of Priam (someone – we know who – keeps burying him but the Greeks then dig him up); the second is the behaviour of Pyrrhus who really is not a chip off the old block but an unruly drunken lout; the third is the fact that the Greeks cannot go home because the winds are against them. Clearly, this is because the gods are offended. The Greeks claim not to know why; Briseis says it is glaringly obvious.

Above all, however, as in The Silence of the Girls, the story is about how it is the women who suffer. The men drink, carouse, fight, have athletic contests and have rough sex with the women. The women who are, for the most part enslaved, have to survive, servicing the men both sexually and as domestic servants, bury the dead, look after the sick and injured and, as we see, give birth. Many of them are impoverished and worked to death, particularly if they are deemed to be no longer sexually attractive. And, of course, this is what war does. The men may get killed and injured but, at least in this book, they enjoy killing, they enjoy raping and they enjoy carousing, while the women suffer.
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Troy falls. Priam, King of Troy, lies dead in the Greek camp, his body left for the crows to take their fill. While there should be triumph, the Greeks are thwarted – the winds blow and they cannot leave Troy. Stuck outside the city they desecrated, tensions rise and fingers start pointing – who has angered the gods for them to send such weather? None are more in limbo than the women of Troy, brought from their homes to be spoils of war for the Greek warriors, forced to the beds of the men who murdered their families. As the powder keg reaches fever pitch, Briseis, carrying the child of the late Achilles, must forge new friendships against the dangers they face as women – invisible, but not insignificant.

I’m going to say up front, Pat Barker is a masterful writer. I read the Silence of the Girls in a couple of sittings when it first came out and it made me cry in its truth and in the horrific treatment of the women. The Women of Troy brings the same descriptive writing – Barker’s attention to the detail of settings, of the folds in clothing, of the smells and tastes of the Greek camp is evocative and moving. There are moments of dialogue that feel incredibly real and some beautiful moments of writing in here that brought me straight back to my first reading of The Silence of the Girls.

I can’t help but be a little disappointed with this sequel, however, and that’s nothing to do with the beauty of the writing. Where this didn’t quite reach the heights of The Silence of the Girls for me was in the arcs of main characters, which didn’t seem to really go anywhere or develop in any way. As I was reading, Briseis became almost a vessel for everyone else’s stories – Amina, Cassandra, Hecuba, Andromache – those stories were beautiful, but where was Briseis’ story within that? What did Phrryus, who was the other voiced character in the story, learn? I’m not sure these were fully explored and this left me reaching the end and thinking ‘what happened?’.

At times the dialect used within the writing is also slightly odd. There are some phrases that feel extremely modern and took me away from the world. I appreciate the effort to make the text accessible to a modern audience and I certainly wasn’t yearning for the archaic language of The Iliad, but the entirely modern language didn’t quite work for me.

I also wanted to flag that there are 2 uses of a word (the ‘R’ word) that I considered to be unnecessary in the text (and in all texts). There were any number of other ways to describe the character and the use of such a word added nothing to the text for me, if anything it jarred me out of the story to question why it would be considered an acceptable descriptor.

Overall, this is a book that is worth reading for the continuation of the story if you loved The Silence of the Girls and as well for the beautifully evocative descriptions of conditions in the Greek camps. The ending left a sense that there may be more, and I hope this book is the interlude ahead of an epic ending.
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A great continuation of a great book! 

As you might be able to tell, this book is the retelling of the fall of Troy. The story picks up right after where "The silence of the girls left off" and we continue to follow Briseis, now the wife of Alchimus, who was once the concubine of the hero Achilles, now carrying his unborn child.

Just as Pat Barker's previous book, this has phenomenal writing and I could not put it down. It's brutal and heartbreaking, but incredibly captivating! Definitely recommend it, especially if you have already enjoyed "The silence of the girls left off". 

TW: violence, murder, death, sexual assault
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I loved this sequel to The Silence of the Girls and thought the women’s voices throughout this book were captivating and I adored hearing their stories. 
There are a number of women featured in this book who give us an understanding of their customs, traditions and morals and their friendship and support for each other is beautifully written. 
These Trojan women captured by the Greeks after the fall of Troy are treated terribly by their captors and the women seek solace with each other. 
I enjoyed learning more about the brutal time this was and think the view of the women living at the time gave an interesting and enjoyable aspect to the story.
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The Women of Troy is Pat Barker’s follow up to 2018’s prize-nominated novel, The Silence of the Girls.  Achilles is now dead, Troy has fallen and Briseis is pregnant with Achilles’ child and married to his loyal friend Alcimus.  

The whole novel has a frustrated and tense feel, because it is set between the end of the war and the Greeks being able to leave the battlefield.  The wind is against them and the waiting warriors grow fractious. Briseis doesn’t have much to do except wait and worry, but there’s plenty of drama going on in the women’s hut.

Recommended for lovers of historical fiction and myth re-telling.

Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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I loved The Silence of the Girls so was really excited to read this sequel. It is the perfect continuation of the story of Briseis, introducing new characters and picking up the stories of some from the first book too.

The story starts not long after where we left Briseis at the end of The Silence of the Girls as she settles into her new position and place in the hierarchy as a prisoner in the Greek camp after the death of Achilles, whose child she is now pregnant with. With the war over, the Greeks are waiting to begin their journey home and many of the women live in uncertainty about what this means for them. 

Told from the alternating perspectives of Briseis and Pyrrhus (Achille's son), who now rules over the camp, the story explores the impact of this limbo state through the eyes of two characters with vastly different experiences and positions in the camp. The story is not overly plot driven because of the situation the characters are in but there is plenty of tension, drama and complex relationship dynamics which kept me hooked and wanting to read on. 

I love Pat Barker's writing, particularly how she digs deep into her characters so we understand their motivations and what drives them. This was much needed for the women who are the heart of this story who have experienced horrific things yet still embody a sense of hope. 

I would suggest reading The Silence of the Girls before this one but would highly recommend both of them. 
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin UK for the ARC.
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Achilles is dead. Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won. 

Picking up right where The silence of the girls left off, we see Briseis trying to navigate within her new life. Not only as the wife of Alcimus but also as the woman who is carrying Achilles' child. She has risen from a slave of the Greeks to a Lady, a role in which she struggles with because of her connection to the other trojan slaves. And all the Greek fighters want to do is go home but unfortunately for them the weather is preventing that from happening, leaving everyone stranded. It seems the Greeks have upset the Gods and until that is rectified no one will be going home. 

Much like The silence of the girls, this story is predominantly narrated by Brisies. Again depicting what life looked like for women slaves after their side has lost. After they've seen everyone male of theirs slaughtered and they have nothing left. You also see the women come together, friendships are formed, rivalries too, but amongst all that there is a moment of hope for these women who have suffered so much already. 

An important perspective of one of the most famous stories in the world, from a voice that would have typically gone unheard.
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Pat Barker returns to the city of Troy and Greek myth in this sequel to the wonderful The Silence of the Girls to which I gave five stars back in December 2018 – and it was also interesting to see how the format of my blog and my reviews has changed since then!

Can Barker repeat her success with that previous novel? Can she recreate the brutality and shocking realism of hearing Briseis’ voice enslaved by Achilles? The delicate balance between mythology and history which was the hallmark of that novel?

In short, no… or perhaps, closer to the truth might be that she intended this novel to be something different to the first. The source material has changed from Homer to Euripides, from epic to tragic, from warfare to its aftermath and in particular that strange hiatus between the end of the Trojan War and the return home – and as almost every reader who picks this up, a return home which will be “difficult” to say the least for so many of these Greek heroes.

We continue with Briseis’ narration – albeit interspersed with the occasional third person point of view from some of the men in the camp – and her position has changed too: no longer a slave, she is married to Alcimus and pregnant with Achilles’ child whom everyone assumes to be his son, which affords her a position of (tenuous) security and even respect within the Myrmidon camp from which she tries to support, console and protect the Trojan women enslaved when Troy fell: characters we know from the myths like Hecuba, Cassandra, Andromache and of course Helen, but also lesser characters created by Barker (I think, correct me if I am wrong) like Maire and Amina. And it on these less mythic characters that Barker focuses.

The story does suffer a little from a lack of direction, as Briseis and the Trojan women and the Greek fighters languish in the war camp outside the devastated fallen city of Troy, waiting for the winds to change direction. This in itself did create a sinister atmosphere: the last time Agamemnon had been befouled by weather (or by Artemis) he had sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia in order to secure favourable winds for Troy! Within this wait, Priam’s corpse becomes the focus for tension: the Trojans who loved their King deeply want him buried; the Greek’s and in particular Pyrrhus, Achilles’ son and Priam’s killer / executioner / murderer depending on your point of view, refuses and his rotting corpse lies on the beach where Amina and Briseis are greeted by

“the buzzing of flies, thousands of them, covering the body like a fuzz of black bristles. As my shadow fell across them, they rose up”

Unlike his son, Hector, there is no miraculous preservation, no nightly reconstruction, just simple rot. And that contrast again shifts this narrative away from the epic and mythic to the human – and is that not what the stories of Troy did for the classical world?

Hands seem potent images in this novel at it is the image of Priam’s hand “with the gold thumb ring he always wore… lying dishonoured on the filthy ground” that affects Briseis – the same hand that she recalled playing magic tricks with a silver coin for her when she was in Troy and upset as a child. Hands that can hold and caress and protect but also harm and be brutal. Many of the women in this novel carry the marks, bruises and welts inflicted on them by the Greek warriors by whom they have been enslaved. Briseis escapes this, but Helen and Cassandra and others carry them. Troy itself – in a simile that is picked up by the image of it’s King’s body (well played, Ms Barker!) – is a victim of the war with “black and broken towers, like the fingers of a half-buried hand pointing accusingly at the sky.

Troy and the events of its fall haunt the narrative too. It opens with a wonderful depiction from Pyrrhus point of view of the Greek soldiers inside the horse. The waiting, the fear, the discomfort – the sudden urge Pyrrhus has to relieve himself (“Oh my god, he needs a shit”) and the soldiers determination not to be the first to use the latrine buckets in the rear (“arse end”) of the horse. And Pyrrhus’ pursuit of Priam inside Troy, the bungling of his death, the desperation to live up to the his father Achilles’ reputation and the inevitability of his failure to do so were extraordinary. And the atrocities inside Troy – the deaths of the Trojan men and boys, the horror of the fate of any pregnant Trojan woman, for fear that they may be carrying a son who might lead reprisals, the murder of infants and babies.

All of this came to be embodied by Hecuba, wife of a murdered king, mother and grandmother to two generations of murdered children. Defeated but unbowed, taken by Odysseus as a slave but still with the demeanour and perspicacity of a Queen.

So in conclusion, I loved this book but it is different to the first and – with unborn babies and hidden Trojan newborns – does feel a little like it is bridging the gap within a series. Bridging it well, but lacking some of the drive and pacing that it perhaps needs. It does make me wonder where the next novel – and I am sure there must be a next – will take us. A re-imagining of the Odyssey will be tricky as Odysseus has left for Ithaca and Briseis didn’t. But Briseis and Alcimus are not key players in the post-Troy myths and could end up anywhere… I wonder whether we will be heading back to Greece to witness the death of Agamemnon. That is a bloody and emotional story I’d like to see in Barker’s hands!

What I Liked

Hecuba who is lying “in her filthy rags on a slave’s bed, she’s still, in her own mind, a queen” – so much so that towards the end of the novel she summons Odysseus and he attends her!

Barker’s imagery – that subtlety of the broken hands of both Troy and its King is delightful.

The wonderful recreation of the world of Greece and Troy that is three thousand years old made as vivid and sharp as the world around us today.

The plight of the silent and invisible women: when mysterious hands try to bury Priam, the idea that it might have been a woman does not even enter the men’s heads. This is a novel that feels terribly pertinent in some ways in the light of Sarah Everard, the #metoo movement – and perhaps most currently the withdrawal from and Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Cassandra – her fevered visions of the future that could be true prophecy or just the antics of a child seeking attention. She has, however, predicted for Agamemnon the outcome of his marriage to her.

The knowingness of the author, shared with a reader familiar with the story of Troy. For example, there is the tiny comment about Odysseus when the wind finally changes and the storm ceases, that he was “the first to leave. He’d always been the one chafing at the bit; the one most desperate to get home”. We know how well that goes, Odysseus!

What Could Have Been Different

A tauter narrative structure and drive.

Slightly less of the deliberately crude and anachronistic language – soldiers talking to Odysseus, a King, about arses and shitting was a little jarring, and Pyrrhus’ recollection of the rape of Andromache as “like sticking your dick in a bag of greasy chicken bones”
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This book starts right where The Silence of the Girls finished off. Pat Barker has become one of my auto buy authors, and this book is proof of why. It’s fast paced, grips you from the first page and successfully tells this epic story of the relatively unknown women in mythology. Fans of this period will know of Briseis, Hecuba, Helen and Cassandra, but you need to read this to hear the stories of the everyday women that the poets forgot. I really enjoyed this book, and this series is one of my favourites! If you like historical fiction, especially based on Greek Mythology, you’ll need to read this when it’s out this week! I was so lucky to get an arc for The Women of Troy, so thank you to @netgalley and @penguinukbooks !!
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Women of Troy is the sequel to Silence of the Girls, Park Barker’s retelling of the siege of Troy, primarily from the point of view of less well known female characters.  I hadn’t read Silence of the Girls and, though Women of Troy works as a standalone novel, I think it would have been a more satisfying read if I had done.
The book continues the story of Briseis, once bed slave to the deceased hero Achilles, now carrying his unborn child.  The story is told in the weeks following the battle of Troy as the Greek army and  the women they have taken prisoner wait for the storm to break so they can sail back to Greece..  Briseis must navigate the different factions within the camp as the various Greek Kings and Achilles’ son Pyrrhus  jockey for position.  She makes allies with slave girls and fallen Trojan noble women alike and begins her fight for survival.  
I really loved this novel,.  It was wonderful to revisit these stories from a fresh perspective, I have already bought Silence of the Girls so I can delve into  Briseis’ earlier life.
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The Women of Troy picks up from where The Silence of the Girls left off. Achilles is no more, the Greeks have won the war but the lack of a fair weather wind is preventing them from setting sail and heading home to revel in their victory.  In this period of limbo, which is not quite war but not quite peace either, we continue to follow Briseis who we met in the earlier novel. 

She is now a wife, having been married off to the respectable Alcimus, and is carrying Achilles' child. No longer limited by slave status, she takes on the role of protector of the Trojan women whose lives have been so irrevocably changed by the war. It is through her eyes that we see the strength that can come from female friendship and how that strength can be underestimated by the men around them. 

What drew me to this book (and to The Silence of the Girls before it) was the idea of retelling the Greek myths through the eyes of the women who have traditionally been denied a voice. In The Women of Troy, I thought the character of Briseis was really well developed and there were glimpses of a sense of humour that came through every now and then which was good to see. 

We do also hear from the point of view of some of the men most notably Pyrrhus - son of Achilles - who now bears the weight of living up to his father's reputation as a great man of war. Pyrrhus, not much more than a child himself, struggles with this burden and often acts out as a result. Watching his descent into what I can only describe as a sort of narcissistic madness was troubling and even though he does some terrible things, I could see that it stemmed from a place of insecurity and fear. I thought Pat Barker did a great job of helping us to feel some empathy for what could otherwise have been a wholly unlikeable character. 

The plot of the novel is fairly thin. Trapped on an island that has been ravaged by war isn't exactly the setting for fun and adventure. Instead there are a rancid smells of death and decay. People are drinking and dancing to forget the horror of their situation and to simply survive is task enough for each day. While this is no doubt realistic for the time and setting, it does not make for a compelling read. At times even I, as someone who likes a slow read, struggled to understand the point of the book. The writing style was odd too, often feeling rudimentary and overly crude for a writer of such skill. 

I'm keen to read the Regeneration Trilogy from Pat Barker which I believe also deals with themes of war to see what she did with that.  She clearly has a talent for writing about how war can impact the individual as well the society they exist within but The Women of Troy fell a little flat for me. The writing style wasn't impressive enough to keep me reading purely for the magnificent prose and the plot wasn't compelling enough to keep me reading to find out what happens. The result was a perfectly fine reading experience but not one that will stay with me.
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