Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker


I think the majority of people will have a certain image of Achilles in their heads thanks to the portrayal of his persona as a great warrior and handsome hero in major blockbuster movies. According to Greek mythology, Achilles was the son of the mortal Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and the immortal Nereid Thetis. She is a sea nymph, a goddess of water and also purported to be one of fifty Nereids, the daughters of the ancient sea god Nereus.

The latter is especially important during this story, because Achilles' obsession with his mother has a direct influence on the way he interacts with women, in this case Briseis. The initial attraction is caused by memories evoked by the smell of the sea on Briseis, which reminds him of the mother who abandoned him. He returns to the sea over and over again to connect with the feeling of love and protection he misses so much. Achilles becomes the young boy who yearns for the arms of his mother.

Of course in relation to Briseis and memories of his mother we are talking Oedipal complex.
The Greeks are fighting to get Helen back, the infamous Helen of Troy. This story is focused on the lives of the women in the camp of the Greeks during this conflict. Women and girls who are bounty from other conflicts and sieges. Any male above a certain age is considered a future threat and therefore annihilated.

It doesn't matter which status the women had before, they are all in the same boat when they are taken prisoner. Saying that, there is still a hierarchy with the worst position being the women no man of importance has any interest in. They are given to the soldiers as camp whores. The others are just whores by a different name. Although sometimes a woman might rise to the position of wife, it tends to be a rarity. The reality is that these women are treated like voiceless scum.

Barker combines mythology, history and women's fiction, the result is a beautiful bold and heart-wrenching piece of literature. It is the gift that keeps on giving. It speaks of the unheard voices and the imposed silence girls have always had to live with. Even the alleged hero, winner of hearts and ruler of warriors is but a man at the end of the day. A man who treats women with disdain.

Buy The Silence of the Girls at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.Publisher: Penguin; Paperback pub date 2 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

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