Cover Image: The Women of Troy

The Women of Troy

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I must have seen at least a dozen feminist rewritings of the Greek myths in bookshops over the last few years, and at times it’s felt like overkill. I read A Thousand Ships last year and found it narratively interesting, but poorly executed. The Women of Troy reminded me why these stories continue to be told and retold, and how they have captured human imagination for millennia. ⁣
The book takes place at the end of the Trojan War; the Greeks have won yet are grounded on the Trojan beach, unable to go home after a ten year battle. They are frustrated and suspicious, wary of what may have angered the gods. The King of Troy, along with all the men of Troy, is dead and his body sits rotting outside the camp. ⁣
The story focuses on Briseis, now pregnant with Achilles’s child and therefore one of the few Trojan woman who is free amidst slaves; Cassandra, married off to the Greek King of Kings Agamemnon, her prophecies of their murder ignored; Calchas, the seer embroiled in politics with Hecuba, the former Queen of Troy; and Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles whose brutality masks his struggle to live up to the greatest warrior ever known. ⁣
I enjoyed this thoroughly - the characters are complex and nuanced, the use of casual modern British vernacular oddly works (Cassandra refers to Helen’s ‘great, big, wobbly tits’, Greek soldiers complain that ‘me back hurts’), and it captures so much of what makes these stories truly great. At the heart of the book is Briseis’s account of Priam coming in the darkness of night to plead with Achilles for the body of the Prince of Troy, Hector, and lying supplicant at the hands of the man who killed his son. Out of it comes mutual respect and friendship, and it is scenes of such profound humanity that remind me why these stories have endured.
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The Women of Troy is a direct continuation of Pat Barker's previous novel, The Silence of the Girls, where we follow Briseis and the other women of Troy following the city's destruction and the growing unrest amongst the Greeks. 

Pat Barker does her best with very little plot here. The book is set during a rather sedate period in Greek history, a time when the winds prevent the Greeks from leaving the fallen city of Troy and everyone just starts bickering amongst themselves. Given that there are numerous factions of bored men stuck on a small plot of land, with no common enemy to fight against, it's no small wonder they start arguing with each other. Especially over the subject of burying Priam. Honestly, at times it felt like Priam was doing the hokey-cokey of burial - in, out, in, out, (don't) shake it all about. In the background, we have Briseis and the other women watching and chatting together, and there are a few nice intimate moments between the women who find themselves at the mercy of these men, but other than that there's not a whole lot going on. It's definitely more a character study, an examination on women from a very specific period of time, rather than a plot driven story. 

Throughout the book, we mainly have Briseis' point of view, however it does occasionally give other perspectives. However, these chapters were often difficult to distinguish as the chapters are not titled, and the voices are not distinct enough to immediately tell that they are from another point of view. A few time I found myself confused by the sudden interruption of Briseis' story to hear from Pyrrhus - although he is a very interesting character, a boy frequently cast in the shadow of his father. 

At times Briseis is a difficult character to warm too. She's often quite harsh in her opinions of the other women around her, dishing out mean or derogatory comments even though she has been in their position herself. She has learnt to adapt to her surroundings better than most, always listening and observing, sometimes able to manipulate what she knows to her advantage, and although is admire this resourcefulness in her, it also doesn't really endear to me either. 

A decent story that takes a quieter moment in time and expands it to include the women into the heart of the take. With such an abrupt ending, I'm hoping this means Pat Barker will continue to tell Briseis' story beyond the shores of Troy.
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I adored The Silence of the Girls so much and returning to Pat Barker's retelling of the events at Troy was just so enjoyable. 

It was brilliant being back in the mind of Briseis as she dealt with the events of the last book and help the women who had arrived in the Greek camp deal with the change in their status. It was brilliant to see Andromache, Hecuba and Cassandra placed in a different light. Plus, in this book, we got to see inside the mind of Phyrrus (Achilles' son) and learn who he dealt with the events of the sacking of Troy and the legacy of having a father like Achilles. And of course, we also saw the famed Greek kings such as Odysseus and Agamemnon, and Nestor. They were all so well written and deep and I loved how it was the women that took centre stage in this book as it is them that so often get neglected. 

The plot was brilliantly written. It was interesting to see the stories of the women being the main stories, something helped by Briseis being the main narrative voice. I loved watching the women deal with the sack of Troy and everything that was going on, like babies and marriages and having masters. Of course, the problems that the women had to deal with intersected with the narrative points from the story that was well known and that were also really cool to see. And I liked that it ended with all the women leaving Troy as it really felt like it was the end of the story.

And the writing was jsut incredible. I absolutely adored the writing in this book, especially how the women were handled because it highlighted them so well. This book was just incredible and I loved it so much.
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5 0f 5 stars
I loved The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.  A retelling of the fall of Troy from the perspective of Briseis who is given to Achilles as a battle prize.  I fell for this story so hard.  The writing was gorgeous, the sense of place and descriptions utterly bewitching and Briseis’ voice so easy to get along with – especially given the violence and bloodiness of the story which could have easily become dark and depressing.

To be perfectly honest I had no idea that this was to be a series and so I was madly happy when The Women of Troy popped onto my radar and to cut a long story short – this doesn’t disappoint.

This story picks up where the first left off, and for the record, I highly recommend you read the first because Briseis is such a compelling point of view.  The Greeks may have won the war but they have become marooned on the beach, unable to set sail for home due to strong winds that seem to bode ill.  Are the Gods displeased?  The Greeks certainly seem to think so and nerves within the camp start to fray with individual factions forming.  Each group hopes to place blame elsewhere and ultimately sacrifices will be called for.

Meanwhile the women of the camp seek to come to terms with their captivity and enforced enslavement as they ride the tides of anger roiling off the Greek warriors.

The Women of Troy is appropriately named as this time we spend much more time with the captive women, watching as they form attachments, sometimes watching with horror as they seem to be coming undone and ultimately hoping that their lives will calm down some.  Briseis is the key pov, Achilles may be dead but carrying his child, and married to one of his close confidantes, she shares an almost elevated position if you will – or if it’s possible to say such a thing given the horrific circumstances in the first place.  I really liked the relationships that slowly formed, and I admit I had palpitations at certain points given the actions of some of the women that Briseis was trying to help and protect.

Also in this instalment we meet Pyrrhus (Achilles’ son).  He is one of the povs along with one of the Prophets Calchas.  Pyrrhus suffers from an inferiority complex living in his father’s shadow.  He is often ashamed of his own actions although he hides this behind bluster and deceit.  He is not the nicest of characters to be honest but I couldn’t help feeling pity for him at certain points.

The absolute winning element for this book for me though was the writing.  It’s so atmospheric.  You could feel the cloying intensity of the camp, the fear, the anxiety.  You could taste the salt from the sea and hear the wind howling.  I absolutely love the writing.  To be fair, the plot itself plays second fiddle a little here.  This is a story that is small in scope and deep on emotional impact.  And it was excellent.

I don’t think I can say too much more to be fair.  There is an element of this story that may trigger certain readers so be aware of that.  The women here are taken by force but this isn’t graphic or sensational, simply part of the story of war.

If I didn’t get the message across already I loved this story.  And, I’m fairly hopeful that more will be forthcoming so happy days.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.
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Silence of the Girls is one of my all-time favourites; it’s one of the few novels I read during lockdown that genuinely gripped and moved me, and has stayed with me since reading. When The Women of Troy was announced, I was immediately very excited (you could even say hyped) to dive back into Barker’s Greeks and the world of Briseis.

Sadly though, Women of Troy didn’t quite match that hype for me, for 3 key reasons…

This novel is called the ‘women’ of Troy, but an uneven percentage of the viewpoint and action centres around the thoughts and behaviours of men. There might always be some of this in a novel set in a historical and mythological war camp, but there are so many interesting secondary women characters that would have been fascinating to see as primary characters instead (Andromache is at the front of my mind for this).

Fatphobia is prevalent throughout the book, and not in anyway that seemed to serve the plot or characters (if such things are indeed possible - I have yet to see it). Briseis is one of my favourite characters to live in the mind of, but not by the end of this novel largely because of this.

Finally, a lot of Women of Troy’s plot is focused around characters discussing the events of The Silence of the Girls. After finishing the sequel, I didn’t feel like there were particularly many ‘new’ pieces of a story that Barker had actually put together. It’s still an interesting novel, but it did actually make me glad I’d not re-read The Silence of the Girls before starting the follow up.

All of that aside, if there is a third novel in Barker’s reimagined Greek world… I will still be picking it up. Women of Troy itself may have been a let down, but Barker’s still excellent writing and retelling hype will absolutely still draw me in.
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After loving the first book in this series, I was really hoping I'd feel the same about the second. Unfortunately I just found the second to be only ok. 
For me, this book lacked the direction and driving force of the first book. It felt like the plot was just wandering along and not really doing much. 
I still enjoyed reading from Briseis' point of view but I didn't love Calchas' chapters.
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This is the second book in the series Women of Troy. We go back to the story where we left it and the first thing we learn is that Pyrrhus, Odysseus and the other Greek fighters are hiding in the wooden horse, the trap they devised to finally conquer Troy.

From there, in the span a weeks we are trapped with the Greek army and the Trojan women on the beach, ships unable to sail and the gods firmly set in their intents, offended by something no one can figure out, not even Calchas, the Trojan priest of Apollo who hopes to regain Agamemnon’s favour.

Briseis is expecting Achilles’ child and is married to Alcimus. New struggles expect her and the women of Troy, newly enslaved after the fall of the city: new losses, new grief and new alliances, until the Greeks will find a way to appease the gods and sail home.

The final pages of the book may suggest a new chapter coming soon, a third book which will show us the adult years of Briseis after leaving her homeland with the Greek army.

I found the first book, The Silence of the Girls, more intense and more suggestive. This second chapter lacks some depth and it feels too much like a bridge towards the next part of the story. It’s true that we are stuck on the beach for weeks with the characters so there’s not much action like in the first book, but I found the narration a bit static, stagnant.

I enjoyed reading The Women of Troy nonetheless, I’m a huge fan of the Greek mythology and I loved the female angle given to the whole story in the much larger project of giving a voice to female characters. A project that has become popular in the past few years and has seen many female authors contributing their retellings.
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I loved Pat Barker’s ‘Silence Of the Girls’ so I was delighted when I saw that there was sequel. However, whereas ‘The Silence Of the Girls’ excelled in its storytelling and page turning narrative, ‘The Women Of Troy’ felt quite static and clunky. Barker is a seasoned writer, so there was some really good writing here, but not a progression from the first book, as I had hoped. I didn’t feel Briseis, the narrator had been developed in anyway, and whilst the introduction of Achilles son Pyrrhus was interesting, again, I felt his character wasn’t really developed or satisfactorily woven into the story.

But my biggest issue was in Barker’s portrayal of Maire, one of the female slaves in the camp. It was so fatphobic and horribly written, I was actually quite shocked an editor had let it stay in the book. It’s purpose added nothing to the story, and it was quite nasty. 

“Maire.....She was the heavy, lumpen girl whose eyebrows met in the middle..”
“Underneath, she was wearing only a thin white shift. My god, the size of her!”

There are a lot more horrible descriptions of Maire, but you get the idea. It was so inappropriate and odd, and not like the character of Briseis, all it did was pull the reader out of the story and highlight the writer’s obvious fatphobia.

All in all a bit of a disappointment, my suggestion is to stick with the ‘Silence Of the Girls’, and leave it there.
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As should be evident from the punchy blurb, there are trigger warnings for rape and violence. Although I’d like to emphasise that there is nothing graphic or sensationalised about the plight of the women who find themselves part of the booty looted from Troy. Probably the most visceral scene is King Priam’s death – and that isn’t as grisly as some of the vicious hand-to-hand fighting depicted in epic fantasies written by the likes of John Gwynne, Joe Abercrombie and Miles Cameron.

What is undeniable is the power of Barker’s prose, as she immerses us in the daily lives of the captured women, experienced in first-person pov by former Princess Briseis, who witnessed the death of her family at the hands of Achilles in the early stages of the Trojan campaign. And was then captured by him. Now he’s dead, her life has once more become uncertain – particularly as she is carrying his child. It’s Briseis who tries to make life easier for the newly captive women, traumatised by the death of their husbands, fathers and sons – and are now having to cope with being owned by those responsible for killing their families. Barker could have so easily turned this into a sensational, stomach-churning read, but her immersive, intelligent writing – while not in any way belittling what is going on – gives us a ringside seat in the camp where the Greeks are still living. For despite being the victors, they are now imprisoned on the shores where they’ve been living for the past decade…

The unfolding story of what happens within that camp, as political alliances shift and rebalance in the light of the Greek victory, makes a riveting read. I fell in love with beautiful, brave Briseis in The Silence of the Girls and this book has only strengthened my admiration for her. If you enjoyed The Silence of the Girls, then this sequel comes very highly recommended. And if you like the idea of reading a retelling of the Trojan war and haven’t yet done so, then I suggest you look out The Silence of the Girls. This engrossing series gives you a version of the story from the viewpoint of the women caught up in it – something the Greek canon never bothered to do. While I obtained an arc of The Women of Troy from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
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I read this ARC for an honest review
All thoughts and opinions are mine

Very much my genre - I absolutely loved this

Highly recommend
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Greek mythology retellings are my favourite things, and Pat Barker's new female-led retelling really lived up to my expectations! I loved reading about Briseis in Silence of the Girls, and I loved following her through this story too – she takes us through the women's stories, but still detailing what is happening with the men. I loved it, and I want more!
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Pyrrhus, Achilles' son, has killed Priam, the King of Troy, but people were watching; not just any people but the woman of Troy. 

The old king who's wife begged him not to put on his armour. The King was old and grey. Pyrrhus should have given him a clean death, but instead, he gave him a death you 'wouldn't even give to a pig.'

How many women of Troy have had their husbands and sons slaughter,  or a knife between their legs to kill their unborn child in case it is a boy? In this novel, it tells of the woman and what they go through, how they are put into slavery, forced to marry and used as a release 

This novel is mainly told through the eyes of Brasies, who is carrying Achilles' child and is married to Alciem. With a couple of chapters told through Phyruss and Calchas, the priest. 

I actually struggled to get into this and found the first 100 pages a little slow and boring, however, it does get better but unfortunately, I still found it slow, and the characters not very engaging.  Bits were interesting but I wouldn't say I'd remember them if someone mentioned one to me. 

I really like the Greek myths, and read the song of Achilles by Madeline Miller a few months ago, so recognised some of the characters and names. But this book is actually a series, which I hadn't realised. I picked this on NetGalley due to the author and because of the genre, but although I may give the first book a go, unfortunately, I won't be looking out for the 3rd.
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Another wonderful book from Pat Barker. After the Silence of the Girls, this book picks up the story from the fall of Troy and the consequences of the Greek occupation for the women of the city, from a range of social classes. Relationships are acutely observed and brought to life as human stories, rather than the traditional telling of heroes and battles. A beautiful insight into a period of history that is more often told in a dry academic style.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advance copy.
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I enjoyed this sequel to The Silence of the Girls. I don't think it's absolutely necessary to read that one first,  The female characters have a higher profile in The Women of Troy, which for me was a big plus.  The women who had previously been shocked at the loss of their menfolk  are learning to survive in this new world which is ruled by the men who had killed their sons, brothers and husbands. Those victorious men are impatiently waiting for a wind to fill their sails so they can travel home. Have they angered the gods and if so what can they do about it?
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The idea behind the book is intriguing. Often the history of Troy after its fall is completely neglected, and if it is told it focuses on the men’s story. We read about what the women have suffered through, and their experience of capture and slavery. There are some very difficult moments as the book progresses, and it is not for the faint-hearted. 

I enjoyed the parts of the book that were from Briseis’ point of view. She is coming to terms with now being a free woman, but yet she is still trapped. Her care and dedication to the women of Troy who are now slaves are mirrored after her own experience when she was in their situation. Briseis is a strong character whose voice gives power to the women and their experiences in this book. However, we also have two other P.O.V, from Pyrrhus and Calchas. Now for a book that is centered around telling the story of women, it is very disappointing to then have two male characters' perspectives included in the book. That is a majority, one female and two male? There were other interesting female characters that I would have preferred to read through their perspective, Hecuba, Cassandra, Amina, etc. The list could go on. We would have had a varied story as no woman’s experience in the Greek camp would have been the same. I felt that this was a poor choice. 

The pacing of this book was incredibly slow. There were many times that my attention slipped and I particularly struggled to read the Pyrrhus and Calchas chapters. I think the choice of narrative is where the plot was let down. There was a lot of potential, but this book for me missed the mark. 

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Disclaimer: I was kindly gifted an electronic copy of this book by Netgalley and Penguin Random House SA in exchange for an honest review. 

3.5 stars

The Women of Troy is the sequel to the bestselling novel The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is a Greek mythology retelling of what the women endured after the fall of Troy. The Greeks are high on their victory of conquering Troy and are ready to sail home but are unable to because of extremely windy weather.
We see how the women of Troy experience the days after the invasion and what their future holds, especially as captives of the Greeks. 

Troy has fallen and the war is over; perhaps for the Greek men but not for the women of Troy. Their war is just beginning. Briseis is married to Alchimus but pregnant with Achilles' child. Like a possession, she was given to Achilles as a prize and before his death, he gave her to Alcimus. Hecuba grieves her husband, Priam, whose corpse is displayed on the beach. Andromache is repeatedly raped by the man who murdered her son. These are just some of the things the women have endured. Other women such as Cassandra, Amina, Helle and Helen are also mentioned. These women see how their husbands and children are murdered, some women lose their entire families and are sold as slaves. All that pain will cause women to seclude themselves, to sit and cry and lose their will to live. But not Briseis, with her newfound freedom she is supportive and kind towards the women and tries to bring them together, hoping to create a safe place during a time of pain. 

With the men's anticipation building to go home, the sudden burial of Priam's body (he was not to have a proper burial), tempers flare and the women take the brunt of it. We see how these women are treated and broken by their pain. 
The story is told from 3 different POV's: Briseis, Pyrrhus (Achilles' son) and Calchas. I rated this book 3.5 stars not because I didn't enjoy the book or the story isn't good, but because it wasn't gripping. It didn't leave a lasting impression. Other readers will enjoy this book very much and will remember it for a long time. The story has a slow pace but it all builds towards the ending. The story is well-written and gives the reader a new perspective of these women. 

If you enjoy Greek mythology retellings, you will enjoy this book. It's recommended to read The Silence of the Girls first.

Trigger warnings as given by the publisher: rape, violence, murder, war themes, sacrificial rituals, slavery.
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I loved the silence of the girls and was dying to read this for such a long time. Ancient Greece has long appealed to me and I even studied it at college so this books was a joy to read.
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I didn’t want this book to end. It was clear the end was coming, that the separation had to come, but I wasn’t ready. Was it intentional that this mirrored the feelings of the women of Troy wrenched from their home and their friends?

The novel follows on from The Silence of the Girls and brings us back to Briseis, Achilles’ concubine, gifted to him as part of the spoils of war. This time Troy is defeated and the city’s women, from the highest to the low, are divided up among the Greek warriors to be used and abused as they see fit - wouldn’t it be a comfort to think that this wasn’t still happening in conflicts, women raped, forced into marriages and slavery? Though the war is won, the Greeks are trapped by the weather, unable to sail for home. Like the weather, it is the ignored women, apparently voiceless and powerless, who drive events and manipulate kings, priests and warriors.

From the two-dimensional characters of myth, Barker creates fully-formed and muscled, utterly real and individual, people you feel you can see and know. Her descriptions put you there, in the Greek camp under the blackened towers of Troy. I could see the shoreline, the black shadows of the ships, the moon breaking through cloud, smell the fetid air in the women’s quarters, hear the constant wind and the silence when it dropped.

Barker takes the airy brushstrokes of ancient stories and creates something solid that speaks not just of history but of war and the experience of women, in particular, across the ages.
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This book is what happens after the fall of Troy. The Trojan women have been taken as slaves even those of royalty.

The story is told from Briseis view and her taking pity on the captured women and taking care of the women. 

I did find this book slow and as such i did need to put it down and do something else. Though given the nature of the story there wouldn't be much 'excitement'. Though Bakers writting did make me want to pick it up and continue, this is also made easier as the chapters are short and there is q flow so you don't lose your place when you re-pick up. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for providing me with a E-arc for an honest review.
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Following directly on from The Silence of the Girls, in the aftermath of the fall of Troy and the story of Briseis, the Trojan trophy wife of the now dead hero Achilles. Pregnant Briseis's fate and indeed all of the ladies of the Greek camp, victors and losers alike, are exceptionally precarious as camp polictics threaten their existence. Barker captures in graphic and horrific detail the horrendous fate of women and abject barbarism in ancient times. The prose is vivid and uncompromising. However, I found the general pace of the narrative slow. I struggled with the inital rhythm of the book, the ebb and flow of Briseis visiting the various haracters of the camp repeatedly, meant that for me, the book didn't really gain any pace until the end. Still a must read for anyone that loves classical retellings.
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