Report on The Page Turners Meeting - Meeting, Thursday, 1 August 2019

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

This novel has been hailed as having a strong feminist message to take on history that has been told as the trials of men and their daring deeds. This story, a part remake from Homer’s Iliad gives a feminine perspective to a time when women were not given a voice. All recorded stories about Achilles, Priam, Agamemnon, Patroclus and Helen of Troy focus on the god driven signs to go slaughter, sack cities and accumulate riches; including women as trophies.

Pat Barker has a huge following due to her sizeable repertoire that has a strong focus on themes of war, survival and the effects of trauma. This book continued with the themes, though the setting was further in the past than the First and Second World Wars, for which, arguable Pat Barker is better known. There is also a recent theme amongst writers to retell the Iliad for readers perhaps wanting a more accessible route to into the stories. To name a few -

Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier

For The Most Beautiful – Emily Hauser

The Penelopiad – Margaret Attwood

Circe – Madeline Miller (coincidentally the Page Turners next read)

The Silence of the Girls slightly misleads the reader to expect more talk from the girls who pepper the scenes of war and capture. Their story cannot be seen as secondary, but somehow Achilles and the other men dominate the text. Certainly the lives of the captured women are ruled completely by the mood and tantrums of the men. There is a complete sense of impuissance surrounding the women and the novel would have benefitted from a greater exploration of this.

There is indifferent brutality in this book, killing on the battlefield, human sacrifice and in the treatment of the spoils of war. There is also mild pornography, but that has to be expected when the topic is the treatment of women by their captors. There are also rats!

Not a difficult book to read as the story unfolded in a linear fashion. Difficult because of the content perhaps. But some of our group found the story a little tedious to read.

Only a mild recommendation then as the average score given by the group was 6


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