The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

“We’re going to survive–our songs, our stories. They’ll never be able to forget us. Decades after the last man who fought at Troy is dead, their sons will remember the songs their Trojan mothers sang to them. We’ll be in their dreams–and in their worst nightmares too.”

Before reading this review, you should know that I read this book shortly after I read and fell in love with The Song of Achilles which is another retelling of the same myth. This certainly affected my judgement, and I know that if I had read this one first, I might have enjoyed it more. As it was, I had fallen in love with characters in The Song of Achilles who were then demonised in this book. I’m going to try to avoid comparisons in my review – but I can’t guarantee it!

This book was sold as a feminist retelling of The Iliad; the story of Helen of Troy, of Achilles and Odysseus and Agamemnon, where the women were playthings, cast offs and voiceless. This premise sounded excellent. However, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by this tale. For a book which wanted to tell the story of the women of the Trojan War, it spent an awfully long time inside Achilles’ head, or otherwise telling his tale. I wanted to know the women’s stories – but I didn’t get them.

I know many people have read this book and loved it, and there were good points about it. It was an enjoyable story and, although I inevitably knew how the story would end I was entertained until the end. But, some parts were very jarring (in particular the speech – I don’t really understand the reasoning behind making all of the characters sound like they are 21st century Londoners. It didn’t make sense to me and made me cringe a bit).

I don’t often write bad reviews and I don’t like doing it – particularly for this book because I know that my judgement was marred a little. I’d recommend this book to those looking for an entertaining retelling of a Greek myth. But I would not recommend it to someone hoping for a feminist retelling, or a retelling which will stay with you because this, unfortunately, is neither.


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