The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
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.
Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can – with young, dangerously naïve Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest – and begins to see the path to a kind of revenge. Briseis has survived the Trojan War, but peacetime may turn out to be even more dangerous…
When I saw this book I knew I had to read it, especially as I studied the women of Troy last year for an assignment. We sadly don’t know much about Briseis and we definitely don’t know for sure what happened to her once Achilles was killed. Some believe that Achilles gave her to one of his comrades in arms and this is the story line that Barker has gone with for this book.
We start the story with the sacking of Troy and the death of Priam. After the battle the story is mainly told by Briseis but is occasionally seen from Calchus the high priest and Pyrrhus’ point of view.
Briseis is not a slave like the other women of Troy because she is now married to Alcimus, so she has more freedom around the camp. However, Briseis knows what it is to see her family killed and to be taken as a slave by the Greeks so she endeavours to help the women of Troy as much as she can.
Briseis is a wonderful character in this book as she has troubles of her own but she really tries to help the women of Troy. However, at times I did find her rather naive and that did annoy me slightly.
Hecuba was perfect in my opinion and as I always imagined her. Even though her kingdom has fallen and she is now a slave owned by Odysseus she still has her pride. The only thing that knocks her is her grief but she still keeps on going. Cassandra was a rather a surprise because sadly she is usually portrayed as insane but Barker was very kind about her. Pyrrhus was another mystery but really he is a lost little boy trying to fill his father’s shoes and always feeling lacking.
I really found this take on the aftermath of the fall of Troy very refreshing and it was wonderful to have a story about one of the women of Troy that isn’t Helen. I really enjoyed this book but I was disappointed at the end because I really wanted to find out what happened with Briseis’ and Alcimus’ relationship, all it needed was a couple of extra pages. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I thank NetGalley and Penguin UK for giving me an ARC of this book.
(Due for publication on the 26th August 2021)
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About the author
Pat Barker was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in 1943. She was educated at the London School of Economics and has been a teacher of history and politics.
Her books include the highly acclaimed Regeneration trilogy Regeneration; The Eye in the Door, winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize; and The Ghost Road, winner of the Booker Prize; as well as seven other novels. She’s married and lives in Durham, England.