Following her bestselling, critically acclaimed The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker continues her extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest myths.
Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home victors, loaded with their spoils: their stolen gold, stolen weapons, stolen women. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails.
But the wind does not come. The gods have been offended – the body of Priam lies desecrated, unburied – and so the victors remain in limbo, camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, pacing at the edge of an unobliging sea. And, in these empty, restless days, the hierarchies that held them together begin to fray, old feuds resurface and new suspicions fester.
Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can – with young, dangerously naïve Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest – and begins to see the path to a kind of revenge. Briseis has survived the Trojan War, but peacetime may turn out to be even more dangerous…
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin General UK for the advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Women of Troy is a haunting and emotional tale, and it begins with the famed wooden horse that leads to the downfall of Troy, five months after the events of The Silence of the Girls.
Briseis, now married to Alcimus, is a free woman, respected as a wife – and bearer of Achille’s son. Although she is not the detached, frightened girl she once was, Briseis feels a sense of responsibility towards the other women now that’s she’s not a slave anymore. Although it begins due to some sort of survivor’s guilt, she finds a sense of camaraderie and perhaps even purpose with them.
One of this book’s biggest flaws, as it was with the prequel as well, is that despite supposedly being the story told from the women’s perspective, it also lets us see some scenes from the men’s perspective. In the prequel, Achilles. Now, Pyrrhus and even Calchas once or twice.
With that being said, I actually enjoyed Pyrrhus chapters quite a lot. To the women, he’s a monster, a butcher like his father. In his own head, we can see that Pyrrhus wishes he wasn’t there at all, he’s never had a choice but to walk in his father’s shoes, and what a pointless attempt it is to try and be anything like the great Achilles? He is drowning in expectations, detached from reality, spiraling…There are always two sides to a story and that is essentially the purpose of this retelling.
The secondary characters leave nothing to be desire either, though I think it seemed like there was something going on with some of them that didn’t really add up to anything.
Once again Pat Barker’s writing style is beautifully evocative; it paints such a clear picture of what is happening, with a bit of a lyrical quality to it as well. I particularly loved this quote: “Heroic deeds, atrocities – who’s to say where the line is drawn?”
Plotwise, there’s not much to remark upon as this is a retelling, and therefore fairly predictable. Still, it was a bit slow, I was expecting a bit more towards the end. Plus, it ended was rather abruptly and it was too nonchalant.
Overall, The Women of Troy is an engrossing, interesting read and I enjoyed it. I recommend it to all fans of Greek mythology.
If you’d like to see my review for the previous book: The Silence of the Girls.