Book Habit Blog: The Silence of the Girls

by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls                             

It is long past time that we pay the closest attention to the experience of war as endured by women and children. In her novel, The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker uses Homer’s Iliad as her template, but reverses the perspective away from Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector and the warrior caste to Briseis, Achilles’ terrified prize of battle, and other Trojan women too. Long silenced by history, these women are the voiceless in The Iliad. Here they are given voice.

Nothing of their exposure to war and defeat is spared the reader including their use of stratagems and psychological defenses to stay alive and stay sane.

Booker chooses the contemporary idiom for her style, especially in her construction of dialogue. She wishes to erase the distance from the present that sometimes comes with reimagining’s of ancient texts. She wants immediacy and the blunt reality of what we know to be true now as it was 3500 years ago.

Barker made her reputation with her superb WW I trilogy, Regeneration. She adds to that distinction with Silence.

~Mike Wall