After reading Madeline Miller’s Circe last year I was so into historic novels about Greek Mythology and this book is exactly what I wanted to read or even better.
The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Iliad, the story of Achilles at the siege of Troy from the perspective of Briseis and she does a pretty brilliant job with her telling.
She is a queen of Lyrnessus when Achilles captures the city and kills her family. She becomes a trophy and she needs to forget instantly about her previous life and be a slave in Achilles hut.
‘Yes, I watched him. Every waking minute - and there weren’t many minutes I allowed myself to sleep in his presence. It’s strange, but just then, when I said ‘I watched him’ I very nearly added ‘like a hawk’ because that’s what people say, isn’t it? That’s how you describe an intent, unblinking stare. But it was nothing like that. Achilles was the hawk. I was his slave to do what he liked with; I was completely in his power. If he’d woken up on moving and decided to beat me to death, nobody would intervene. Oh, I watched him all right, I watch him like a mouse.’
Briseis takes part in the life of thousands of woman who becomes slaves, she shares their daily life struggles, where they are treated as objects, not person but also she can observe the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, who was very kind to her as they shared similar experience of being on duty of the greatest warrior.
She also stands between Achilles and Agamemnon, they greed and their pride. When Agamemnon demands Briseis for himself, Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose with Trojans.
When Patroclus dies, Achilles blames Briseis for his death, he wishes she died in Lyrnessus, she was a thing and things do not matter.
“I was no longer the outward and visible sign of Agamemnon’s power and Achilles’ humiliation. No, I’d become something altogether more sinister: I was the girl who’d caused the quarrel. Oh, yes, I’d caused it – in much the same way, I suppose, as a bone is responsible for a dogfight.”
We know everything that we can about the Trojan War but in The Silence of the Girls, we can hear the voice of the women’s most brutal experiences. Thanks to Briseis we have a chance to get insides of war camp, a war which lasted 10 years and took many, many lives of men and changed even more women’s fates.
The Silence of the Girls
Date published: 2018
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Reviewer: Monika Barrera
Review rating: 4/5