Sunday, 17 November 2019
The Silence of the Girls - Pat Barker
I was a big fan of the Regeneration Trilogy, not quite so keen on the Life Class Trilogy, although I still enjoyed it. Neither prepared me for this. The Silence of the Girls is a masterpiece - it's as simple as that. Barker takes the exact same episode of the Trojan War that Homer does, the 'wrath of Achilles', and does it from the woman's point of view. Given that Agamemnon's depriving Achilles of his prize slave Briseis, the captured queen of Trojan Lyrnessus, prompted the long sulk, this is an even better concept than Homer's. We see everything from all sides, Greek, Trojan, man, woman. And the change that Briseis brings about in Achilles, after the death of Patrocolus, is beautifully done by Barker and utterly convincing. I also loved the way she depicted the hero's eerie mother, the sea-nymph Thetis. That said, all her characterisations worked for me: the aged Priam, the simple Ajax, the individual enslaved women, and best of all, ever-patient Patrocolus. There is nothing more I can say. The best book I have read this year. A true work of art. I relished every single word.