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Publisher's Summary

One of Vanity Fair's Best Fall Books of 2018 

"An important, powerful, memorable book that invites us to look differently not only at The Iliad but at our own ways of telling stories about the past and the present." (Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey)

From the Booker Prize-winning author of the Regeneration trilogy comes a monumental new masterpiece, set in the midst of literature's most famous war. Pat Barker turns her attention to the timeless legend of The Iliad, as experienced by the captured women living in the Greek camp in the final weeks of the Trojan War.

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, who continue to wage bloody war over a stolen woman - Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war's outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms until Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles' concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army. 

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and cooly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis' people but also of the ancient world at large. 

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war - the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead - all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology that, seen from Briseis' perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker's latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives - and it is nothing short of magnificent.

©2018 Pat Barker (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The Silence of the Girls is brilliant - fascinating, riveting and blood chilling in its matter-of-fact attitude toward war and those who are its spoils. I loved the book for its craftsmanship, as well is its wonderful evocation of the ancient world and the not-so-ancient minds of the people inhabiting it." (Diana Gabaldon)

"An extraordinary novel...[and] the current debate about power and control in sexual relationships makes it a very timely one. If this doesn't make every serious literary prize shortlist, I'll be very surprised." (Alice O'Keefe, The Bookseller)

"This extraordinary collaboration between the Booker Prize-winning novelist Pat Barker and superb narrators Kristin Atherton and Michael Fox reimagines the passionate, bloody, mythic Trojan War of Homer's Iliad. Once begun, you will want to abandon everything to spend time with Fox's 'Great' Achilles (aka The Butcher) and Atherton's Briseis...This is a must-listen." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Michal
  • Scotsdale, AZ, United States
  • 09-16-18

Terrific book!

I loved this book. We've all read the Iliad, but this is the story told from the females involved in the war. The book is beautifully written. The reader does a fantastic job in narration, and I felt like I was walking the journey with these women. There were intervals told me the men's point of view, and this kept the story so very real.

Probably my favorite book that I've read this year. I preordered it after reading 2 reviews from both the Wall Street Journal and again in the USA Today. Both publications stated that the book was terrific. I so agree.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Not sure

Having absolutely loved Madeline Miller's books, Circe and Song of Achilles, as well as The House of Names by Colm Toibin, I've come to seek out the retellings of Greek Myths for their power and inspiration. All, deep and satisfying for me. So, this retelling had it's moments, and I enjoyed the differences in the tales' retellings. Somehow, it never really landed for me, though. Not sure why. The view from the feminine perspective provided insights, for sure. Enjoyed the moments when Thetis shows up, too, as all the retellings have created Thetis as an intriguing Goddess.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Katie N.
  • Taylorsville, Utah, United States
  • 10-16-18

Incredible

This book was incredible. That's the only word that comes to mind, as I'm writing this. The story weaves in and out of stories we already know from the Iliad, but in my opinion it's so much better. You fall in love with the main character as she struggles with her identity as a Trojan, and also as a slave. The way this book ended just left me in awe, this will definitely be one I'll listen to again and again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant and haunting retelling of the Iliad

Pat Barker’s “The Silence of the Girls” is an amazing and eye-opening version of Homer’s classics (parts of it anyway). Told principally from the perspective of Briseas, a captured Trojan and now bed-slave to Achilles. I’ve long been a fan of Homer’s epic, and Barker expertly weaves a thrilling story, while deftly skewering the traditional “heroism” of the tale. Both readers are truly excellent. The separate use of Michael Fox for the Patroclus/Achilles perspectives offers an important change of tone, and he nails the balance between compassion and callousness of the characters. He brings depth and nuance to them which is important to the story. But it is Atherton who really stands out. Her voice is soft and hauntingly sad, with a flatness that perfectly conveys Briseas’s resignation to her fate and the fate of the other women and girls in the story. A brilliant performance of Barker’s terrific prose. This is an excellent story and audio book, and it offers insights into our current cultural climate.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Moves Along Nicely

The conquest of Troy as mainly told from Achilles' battle awarded female slave Briseis, (there are male voices and viewpoints presented). If you are a fan of Homer's Iliad this is a companion tale, it is NOT an alternative version and works well within the epic poem. The author has of course taken liberties with internal motivations that are somewhat different (or assumed) from that presented by Homer. It makes a great story more believable when you consider the emotions and wants from the vantage of the captured women.

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Brilliant

Loved it. The narrators were wonderful to listen to, painted the vivid story very well.

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Women

It was nice to hear a different side of the story or perspective. Very well written.

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interesting book

I like how it tells the story from the point of view we don't see in the original story. In the original you dont know how the women feel or suffer. This version brings all of these heart breaking to your attention and really makes you think.

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New twist on a classic tale

A well written and performed tale on a classic novel! I highly encourage readers of all ages to pick up this book

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It's like you can taste the sea.

The book is really something else. It transports you to another period, and it feels real enough that you can feel the ocean breeze amongst the camp. This book is not a love story, however, it's the whispered story passed from our mother's mother's from a time long ago. It's full of pain, silence, and slavery that they suffered by the hands of their captors. This is a beautifully written timepiece of their painful stories.