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.
It was a delightful surprise to receive this proof copy of The Women of Troy prior to publication day. The Silence of the Girls (reviewed here) was the book that introduced me to Greek Mythology retellings and it is no lie to say I fell in love with the stories of Troy. Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me this one – words can’t really describe how pleased I was when I opened the package and I really do appreciate being gifted books.
The Women of Troy picks up where The Silence of the Girls ended. Troy has fallen and the Greek armies are awaiting the winds to calm so they can sail home. Briseis is no longer a slave but living in a strange no-mans-land as the wife of Alcimus, loyal aide to Achilles and chosen by him for Briseis. Briseis is pregnant with Achilles child.
Navigating the camp as the wife of Alcimus offers a degree of ‘freedom’ and safety but while life is better for Briseis, she is not free, she is the wife of Alcimus and her destiny is with him. Not fully accepted by the captured Trojan women, there is a perception that for Briseis, enslaved to Achilles, things had been different, his attractiveness and strength making him appealing, although Briseis never forgets he killed her family.
The book spans the time from the end of Troy to the ships departing the beaches of Troy, the final pages seeing Odysseus off on what will be a mighty journey. For me, with Achilles gone, the women were freed to take centre stage and their plights in the camps was more evident, the rape and brutality they were subject to and actually their almost total invisibilty as humans.
Told in the first person voice of Briseis, the writing allows the reader to inhabit her mind and I did feel I gained more insight into her experiences, with Achilles and later. Her ability to submit to her situation and survive and her empathy and desire to support the female slaves, recognising their plight and at times recalling her own experiences with Achilles and Agamemnon.
With a cast of now familiar characters including Cassandra, Andromache and Hecuba plus Pyrrhus – vengeful for his father’s death while living in his shadow, this book absolutely satisfied my appetite for Greek myths, the stories of Troy remain a firm favourite. The writing was eloquent, there was a quietness to Briseis which I liked and that contrasted with the brutality and noise of the men.
A fabulous sequel to The Silence of the Girls, very readable and easy to pick up and be swept back to those shores of Troy. Definitely recommended by me and I hear the next installment will be about Cassandra who we see departing with Agamemnon as his wife at the conclusion of this book. I can’t wait!
If you want to check out my reviews of other books in this genre the links are below.
About the Author
Pat Barker was born in Yorkshire and began her literary career in her forties, when she took a short writing course taught by Angela Carter. She was encouraged by Carter to continue writing, and now four decades later, she has published sixteen novels, including her masterful Regeneration trilogy, been made a CBE for services to literature, and won the UK’s highest literary honour, the Booker Prize.
Her last novel, The Silence of the Girls, began the story of Briseis, the forgotten woman at the heart of the most famous war epics ever told. It was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Costa Novel Award and the Gordon Burn Prize, and won an Independent Bookshop Award 2019. The Women of Troy continues that story. Pat Barker lives in Durham.