This is a fabulous continuation of Pat Barker’s feminist retelling of Homer’s Iliad, although given my elementary knowledge of Greek mythology and history, “The Silence of the Girls” and “The Women of Troy” are forming my baselines on the subject. I’m interested to see how my eventual reading of Homer’s text is shaped by my reading of Barker’s interpretation first.
The opening is powerfully visceral. “Inside the horse’s gut: heat, darkness, sweat, fear. They’re crammed in, packed as tight as olives in a jar.” Achilles’ son Pyrrhus, desperate to live up to the reputation of his dead father, sits alongside his fellow Greek soldiers as the Trojans wheel the gigantic wooden horse into the city of Troy.
I have no real affinity for Greek mythology — it might even be a stretch to call my knowledge rudimentary, since it probably dates back to High School history lessons — and I’ve never flicked past the first dozen or so pages of Homer’s “Iliad.” So I can’t quite articulate why I was drawn to Pat Barker’s speculative account of the fate of the women taken captive during the Trojan War, “The Silence of the Girls.”
I’ve gone on the record previously about my relative aversion to historical fiction. Anything set pre-1900s generally doesn’t appeal. I can’t tell you why. There’s just no allure. There are exceptions, of course: C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series springs to mind. But even Hilary Mantel’s blockbuster Wolf Hall trilogy failed to bewitch me, and it wasn’t because of the quality of the writing.