The Silence of the Girls

"Explore the untold tale of women in war with 'The Silence of the Girls' book. Pat Barker's gripping retelling of Homer's 'The Iliad' from a female perspective reveals resilience amidst turmoil. Discover this powerful narrative shedding light on forgotten voices."
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“The Silence of the Girls” by Pat Barker is a powerful retelling of Homer’s “The Iliad” from the perspective of the women who were often overlooked in the original epic. It explores the lives of the women captured during the Trojan War and their struggles as captives in the Greek camp. The story primarily follows Briseis, a queen taken as a prize by Achilles, shedding light on the brutality of war and the resilience of women in the face of adversity.


The novel opens with the sacking of Briseis’s city, Lyrnessus, by Achilles and the Greeks. Briseis, the queen, becomes a spoil of war, awarded to Achilles as a prize. The narrative dives deep into the harsh reality of being a captive in the Greek camp, where women are treated as possessions. Briseis witnesses the clash of egos between Achilles and Agamemnon, which leads to Achilles withdrawing from the war, causing chaos among the Greek forces.

Throughout the story, Briseis navigates her position as a concubine to Achilles, forming an intricate relationship with him while grappling with her feelings of loyalty to her people. Her perspective offers a unique view of the legendary warriors and the impact of their actions on the women they possess.

As the war escalates, the women’s voices grow stronger, challenging the traditional narrative of heroism and shedding light on the untold suffering of those caught in the turmoil of war. Briseis emerges as a symbol of resilience, finding her voice amidst the silence imposed upon her by a society dominated by men.


  • “Achingly powerful.” – The Guardian
  • “A stunning reimagining.” – The New York Times Book Review
  • “Barker’s prose is raw and haunting.” – NPR
  • “An essential read that reshapes ancient myths.” – The Washington Post


“Silence becomes a woman.” – Pat Barker, “The Silence of the Girls”
“Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles… How the epithets pile up.” – Pat Barker, “The Silence of the Girls”
“I have to be two different people, every day and every night.” – Pat Barker, “The Silence of the Girls”


Q : Is knowledge of “The Iliad” necessary to understand this book?
A : No, prior knowledge of “The Iliad” is not essential. Barker’s novel stands on its own, providing context and insights into the story that make it accessible to readers unfamiliar with the original epic.

Q : How does the author portray the characters, particularly Briseis?
A : Barker portrays Briseis as a resilient and complex character. She undergoes significant personal growth, finding strength and reclaiming her voice despite the oppressive circumstances she faces.

Q : What themes are explored in the book?
A : “The Silence of the Girls” delves into themes of power dynamics, the impact of war on women, resilience, and the agency of those silenced by society.

“The Silence of the Girls” stands as a poignant and thought-provoking novel that sheds light on the untold stories of women in ancient mythologies, making it a compelling and important read for modern audiences.