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The Women of Troy

by Pat Barker

Series: The Women of Troy (2)

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4001155,046 (4.08)26
A daring and timely feminist retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it--an extraordinary follow up to The Silence of the Girls from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Regeneration Trilogy.   "An important, powerful, memorable book."--Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey Troy has fallen and the victorious Greeks are eager to return home with the spoils of an endless war--including the women of Troy themselves. They await a fair wind for the Aegean. It does not come, because the gods are offended. The body of King Priam lies unburied and desecrated, and so the victors remain in suspension, camped in the shadows of the city they destroyed as the coalition that held them together begins to unravel. Old feuds resurface and new suspicions and rivalries begin to fester. Largely unnoticed by her captors, the one time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles's slave, now belonging to his companion Alcimus, quietly takes in these developments. She forges alliances when she can, with Priam's aged wife the defiant Hecuba and with the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.… (more)
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» See also 26 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Pat Barker's "The Women of Troy" is a sequel to her "The Silence of the Girls", and was just as compelling a read. The earlier book focusses on the events in "The Iliad", seen from the perspective of Briseis, the captive who was the cause of the anger of Achilles. This book moves the story forward to the time after the fall of Troy. All the Trojan men have been killed, all the Trojan women have become slaves. Again, most of the story is told by Briseis, with a few parts focussed on Phyrrus, Achilles' son, and on Calchis, a priest. The story is bleak, but deeply engrossing, and the character development is gripping. For this reader, both novels capture the spirit of the Bronze Age through the eyes of women. I hope there will be more novels continuing the story. ( )
  annbury | Sep 11, 2022 |
The brilliant Pat Barker picks up what she left in The Silence of the Girls, bringing us more insight and wisdom through the eyes of the "silent women".

The Woman of Troy begins with the fallen Troy empire and progresses with Briseis as she finds her world changing after Troy's defeat. In the beginning of this one especially, we do have some insight from some of the males, but it remains mostly of Briseis that we hear from, providing inspiration and insight into her world as she stands up and attempts to help others around her given her new position of power as Alcimus' wife.

Beautifully crafted and wonderfully remastered story told with a true gift for words and Barkers hear seeping through the pages. I'd recommend you read The Silence of the Girls first, as that will give you a better foundation leading in to this story, however you can piece things together if you are not familiar with the first book.

The Women of Troy is one of many retellings hitting shelves right now but I'm confident that the well planned, well researched and beautifully composed novel will stand out and shine far above the other works, making this a sure hit with fans of Madeline Miller or just mythology in general. I know I will be reading this again and again as well as looking out for anything else Pat Barker may have in store for us readers.

Thank you so much to netgalley and to Pat Barker and publishers for providing an advance ecopy in exchange for my honest review.

I can happily say that I highly recommend not only The Women of Troy but everything that has been or will be released from Pat Barker. ( )
  chasingholden | Apr 26, 2022 |
Lyrical and haunting, and also rich with tangible, everyday detail. This is a stellar example of how evocative and powerful can be the retelling of "known" or "standard" history from the point of view of someone who didn't "matter" at the time. In this case we hear the voice of a woman/slave/hostage-by-marriage observing what these days might be called the toxic masculinity of the victorious and murderous Greek army after their destruction of Troy. I'm glad I'd never read [The Iliad] because now when I do I will have another, trustworthy, version to understand it against. ( )
  JonathanLerner | Apr 1, 2022 |
Barker picks up the narrative she began in The Silence of the Girls, the story of Briseis, a Trojan queen awarded to Achilles as a prize of honor. After Achilles's death, she was given to one of his captains, Alcimus, a kind and honorable man who is happy to marry the woman carrying the great Greek warrior's child. As a wife, Briseis has a measure of privilege and freedom not granted to the other captive women, but she is still watched and limited in her actions. She is also the target of jealousy from Achilles's son Pyrrhus. Although he never met his father, Pyrrhus has inherited his sword and shield and the command of a large number of troops. He is lauded for killing the Trojan king Priam, but rumor has it that this wasn't exactly a clean, honorable kill but more of a botched butchering. Pyrrhus's insecurities often erupt into cruelty. One such act is his edict that Priam's body be tossed on the shore and left to the birds, the animals, and the weather rather than being granted the burial customary for his status. Pyrrhus is sensitive to any criticism that might suggest that he is not worthy of being Achilles's son--and, of course, concerned that a new brother might outshine him in time.

Briseis's relative freedom of mobility allows her to visit the captive women's quarters and huts. Many of the enslaved women have been relegated to lowly tasks in the camp hospital or laundry, or to being used by the soldiers. Briseis visits her friend Ritsa, who now works in the hospital, and the fallen Trojan royals, including Andromache, Hecuba and Cassandra. She also forms a hate/love relationship with Amina, a slave who has been assigned to accompany her whenever she leaves the house. Amina appears to be a withdrawn, quiet girl, but a fire burns within her heart, and she draws Briseis dangerously close to the flames.

I was totally engrossed in this story and in Briseis's ability to act while remaining within the bounds of her captive role. I am sure there will be a third installment, since her child has not yet been born at the book's conclusion (and, of course, we all know that Barker loves trilogies!) ( )
1 vote Cariola | Feb 26, 2022 |
As a boy I loved old legends, especially those of the Ancient Greeks, in which humans so often seemed like chess pieces moved around at the whim of the gods. They certainly seemed to bear out the Duke of Gloucester’s lament in King Lear, ‘As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.’

One Christmas, now probably not far short of fifty years ago, my sister gave me a boxed set of Puffin paperbacks by Roger Lancelyn Green, in which he retold a wide selection of old myths. One volume included tales from ancient Egypt, and the antics of their strange gods with those human bodies topped by animals’ or birds’ heads; another recounted the Norse legends, and the grim adventures that befell the people and gods of Middle Earth. The ones I liked best, however, were those about the Greek legends, and in particular, Green’s retelling of the Trojan War, in which wily Odysseus and his friend Diomedes contributed just as much to the success as the physical might of Ajax, or the harsh valour of Achilles. I read them over and over again, and thought I knew everything about the Greeks’ ten-year campaign to avenge Paris’s abduction of the beautiful Helen.

Of course, I knew of The Iliad and The Odyssey, composed (according to legend) by the blind minstrel Homer, which stand at the fountainhead of Western literature. It came as quite a surprise, however, when I finally came to read The Iliad to discover that it didn’t relate the whole ten years of the Trojan War, and all the ins and outs of that dreadful conflict. It is, instead, restricted to a period of about eight weeks, towards the end of the war (although, of course, the protagonists did not know that), and focuses primarily on the bitter dispute between Achilles, unrivalled hero of the Greeks, and Agamemnon, overall leader of the Greek forces and brother of Menelaus, from whom Paris had abducted Helen.

That dispute hinged round two young noble women (Briseis and Chryseis) whom the Greeks seized from one of the cities near Troy that they had sacked. Briseis, was given to Achilles, while Chryseis was delivered to Agamemnon. Chryseis was the daughter of a senior priest of Apollo, and her father came to plead with Agamemnon for her release, offering a large ransom in return. Agamemnon, notable for his pride, anger and utter lack of wisdom or humanity, scorned Chryseis’s father, sending him away empty handed. The priest scurries away, praying to Apollo, whom he addresses by various titles, including the apparently innocuous title ‘Lord of Mice’. Seeing his priest treated with such disdain, Apollo vents his rage. We quickly learn that the epithet, ‘Lord of Mice’ refers to his ability to send plague, which was spread throughout the ancient world by rodents. The Greek camp is soon overrun with a virulent plague, which renders far worse casualties than the Trojans had achieved. After consulting various oracles, the wiser Greek leaders persuade Agamemnon to send Chryseis back to her father, and offer huge sacrifices to appease Apollo. He grudgingly does so, but then insists upon seizing Briseis from Achilles to replace her. This so angers Achilles that (‘sulking in his tent’) he withdraws his men from the campaign. Without the ferocious Achilles and his loyal Myrmidons, the Greeks falter on the battlefield, and lose much of the ground they had so painstakingly won over the previous nine years.

Pat Barker’s second novel revisiting this ancient story focuses primarily on Briseis, and tells the story of the aftermath of the fall of Troy from the women’s perspective, picking up from her previous book, The Silence of the Girls. Briseis, had been a princess in her own realm (a city state that fell within the overall domain of Troy), but was captured when her city was sacked by the Greeks, and dragged back to their camp. Terrified, and unsure whether she will even survive the first night, she finds herself given to Achilles. In the Roger Lancelyn Green version that I read as a boy, it was merely stated that she was passed to him as a maidservant. Barker shuns any such euphemism, and makes it abundantly clear that Briseis’s future will be as a sexual plaything of Achilles, on call whenever required. Barker’s Briseis is a great character. Caught in a dreadful predicament, she remains strong and resourceful, emerging with far more dignity than her cruel and petulant captors.

Where Barker excels is in taking a story with which her readers are already familiar, and successfully reversing the perspective while retaining all the immediacy and draw of the plot. Anyone familiar with the story of Troy knows what is about to happen, and how the different fates of the principal characters will play out. Despite that, the reader is hooked immediately, and drawn in to Briseis’s story. The book races along, driven by Barker’s clear prose.

The book is a dazzling success. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Feb 25, 2022 |
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A daring and timely feminist retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it--an extraordinary follow up to The Silence of the Girls from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Regeneration Trilogy.   "An important, powerful, memorable book."--Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey Troy has fallen and the victorious Greeks are eager to return home with the spoils of an endless war--including the women of Troy themselves. They await a fair wind for the Aegean. It does not come, because the gods are offended. The body of King Priam lies unburied and desecrated, and so the victors remain in suspension, camped in the shadows of the city they destroyed as the coalition that held them together begins to unravel. Old feuds resurface and new suspicions and rivalries begin to fester. Largely unnoticed by her captors, the one time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles's slave, now belonging to his companion Alcimus, quietly takes in these developments. She forges alliances when she can, with Priam's aged wife the defiant Hecuba and with the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.

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