The Women of Troy

Pat Barker

The Women of Troy
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The Women of Troy

Pat Barker

Sequel to critically acclaimed bestseller The Silence of the Girls, an extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest classical myths from one of best writers of war fiction.


Troy has fallen and the Greek victors are primed to return home, loaded with spoils. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails.

But the wind does not come. The gods are offended - the body of Priam lies desecrated, unburied - and so the victors remain in uneasy limbo, camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed. The coalition that held them together begins to fray, as old feuds resurface and new suspicions fester.

Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, erstwhile queen Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can - with young, rebellious Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest - and she begins to see the path to revenge…

Review

In The Women of Troy, Pat Barker returns to the bloodied sands of ancient Greece to continue the story of her acclaimed retelling of The Iliad, The Silence of the Girls. The novel begins in the belly of the great wooden horse, with Pyrrhus – Achilles’ son – preparing for the devastating sack of the city and his gruesome slaughter of Priam. From there Barker is somewhat liberated from her prototypical text; Homer and his fellow storytellers were more interested in the glory of battle than in the aftermath – the unburied bodies, desecrated homes and violated women that results from any war.

Necessarily, The Women of Troy is a very different book from The Silence of the Girls. The propulsive urgency of the first story has given way to the sinister, creeping dread of the second. The war is lost, the winners are declared, and the spoils – including the women from both sides – have been divided among the victors. The captured slave Briseis has been married off to protect Achilles’ unborn child, but her new status rests uneasily on her shoulders. To the Greeks she’s nothing more than an incubator, and to her fellow female captives she’s a traitor.

While the armies wait for a wind change that will allow them to finally return home, Briseis uses her new influence to try and protect the women of the camp from the men’s anger and violence. For the first time, Barker introduces readers to the more familiar female citizens of Troy: the cursed Cassandra, given as a sex slave to Agamemnon; the bereaved Andromache, forced to share the bed of the son of her husband’s killer; Hecuba, who struggles to comprehend her fall from queen to slave; and Helen, whose beauty provides little protection from the rage of her cuckolded husband. If The Silence of the Girls was a masterclass in female rage, The Women of Troy is a study of survival.

Pat Barker is an extraordinary writer, and this is an extraordinary novel. Contemporary, heartbreaking, and galvanising, it is essential reading.


Lian Hingee is the digital marketing manager for Readings.

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