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Publisher's Summary

A daring and timely feminist retelling of The Illiad 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' 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.

©2021 Pat Barker (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"[A] masterly continuation of her fiercely feminist take on Homer’s Iliad.... In a novel filled with names from legend, Briseis stands tall as a heroine: brave, smart, and loyal.... Barker’s latest is a wonder." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"Barker’s blunt, earthy prose strips the romance from Greek mythology, revealing its foundations in murder and oppression, yet she also understands - and conveys - the stark appeal of these ancient stories as she asks us to reconsider them through the eyes of their victims. As with her masterful Regeneration trilogy, the inconclusive close of this volume leaves readers hungry to know what happens next to a host of complex and engaging characters. Vintage Barker: challenging, stimulating, and profoundly satisfying." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"[Barker’s] insight and compassion are on full display. As is her outrage." (The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about The Women of Troy

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  • Overall
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Painful and exhausting. Beautiful and resonant.

The golden age continues. Pat Barker has delivered yet another powerful and effective story of The Trojan War with this sequel to her 2018 effort “The Silence Of The Girls”. The first novel told the story of The Trojan War from the perspective of one of its most important yet oft forgotten characters: Briseis. Through Briseis we saw what war was really like in the ancient world. Gone was the glory and romanticism of The Trojan War that we’ve all become used to. Instead we got the blunt, horrific, and unvarnished truth of what the fall of a city really looked like. Barker was unmercifully honest in describing the dehumanization that victims of war and sexual assault suffer and while it was undeniably difficult to read it was also undeniably effective and poignant without being exploitative and cheap.
In “The Women Of Troy” we pick up during and immediately after the fall of Troy. Trojan men and infant males lie butchered under the walls of Troy and the surviving women have become slaves. As they await their fate it is discovered that the desecrated body of King Priam has been buried. As the Greek kings investigate and speculate as to who the culprit is, the Greek army itself is unraveling at the seams. Drunk on victory, longing for home, and straining under the weight of their atrocities the camp is more dangerous than ever. Here again Barker does not shy away from the cold reality of sex slavery. Her writing style is frank, blunt, and sickeningly descriptive. You can almost smell the camp as she describes it. Readers should also beware and prepare for some very difficult passages. While it does at certain points become almost too much to handle it’s always honest and at the end of the day makes for a very rewarding (if somewhat exhausting) read.
What I liked most about “The Women Of Troy” is the main character. Barker does a remarkable job of making Briseis compelling and well-rounded. There’s a fire, resilience, and strength in her that is just so powerful and addicting to read. Briseis’ characterization and story is so well done and articulated it actually reminded me of yet another incredible modern reinterpretation of the Trojan war; Madeline Miller’s “Circe”. Anyone who has read and enjoyed “Circe” will know that that is quite the compliment. I also appreciated that important characters on the periphery of “The Silence Of The Girls” are introduced and fleshed out here. Characters like Helen, Cassandra, and Hecuba are the titular “Women Of Troy” and Barker uses them to great effect.
I’ve come to really respect Pat Barker as an author and was so impressed with “The Silence Of The Girls” that I slowly began reading her other works. Barker has an uncanny ability to describe the horror of war and its nightmarish consequences on ordinary people. Her stories consistently give a voice to those we’ve never really had a chance to hear from before. While I think “The Silence Of The Girls” is a little more focused and resonant, “The Women Of Troy” is a worthy sequel. It’s unsparing, relevant, and powerful. If you enjoyed it as much as I did and are looking for similar titles then definitely give a listen to “The Song of Achilles” and “Circe” by Madeline Miller, “A Thousand Ships” by Natalie Haynes, or “House Of Names” by Colm Toibin.

17 people found this helpful

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Must Read for Iliad fans

A striking sequel to The Silence of the Girls, picking up seamlessly from the belly of the Horse. Too little is ever told from the POV of female characters in the classics. Somehow it’s all about the Heroes in battle but it is always the women that heroically survive by extraordinary means. Both books from Pat Barker are now permanently added to modern Greek classics list such as Circe and Sing of Achilles.

5 people found this helpful

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Kristin Atherton is an outstanding narrator here.

Thank you Pat Barker for this book and outstanding story. Thank you for bringing my favorite myth to life.

4 people found this helpful

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Women of Troy

Listener, do you know that feeling when you learn that an amazing book will have a sequel? Do you know that feeling when you start to read it, or maybe even more viscerally, start to listen to it, and your stomach gets a little tight with worry? Maybe it won't feel the same? Maybe it won't be as amazing?

Fear not.

Pat Barker continues the story of Briseis, still in the Greek camp, but just on the eve of the fall of Troy. While Silence was about Briseis struggling to survive in and then figure out the workings of the Greek Camp, now it is her lot to assist the survivors of Troy, the Women.

All kudos to Kristin Atherton for her continually excellent performance. She gives a human, venerable but unbreakable, voice to Briseis. She delivers the other characters without relying on changes to pitch or accent, rather allowing subtler techniques like intonation and pacing to help the words they speak shape each character.

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Great

I listened to this on audible and did not want it to end. Sure do wish she would write another sequel. Loved both books.

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Dreary

Slow moving, cursory, & redundant, the storyline could have been condensed into a short essay. After reading Homer’s Odyssey & The Iliad I hoped to pause a moment to reflect upon the human costs of the long war between the Greeks & Trojan as imagined upon the lives of surviving Trojan women. Instead this long drawn out, soppy narrative is hardly more than gab-gab-gab among sad, displaced Trojan women. Little to no action except for the stealth burial of King Priam. I kept hoping it would improve but alas, like a festering wound, the nuisance grew worse with each chapter. This drab is not historical fiction. Boring.

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Gripping performance

There simply is not a better narrator. Kristin Atherton breathes life into everything she performs. This excellent narration is no exception.

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Superb narration

Fabulous novel. Immerse yourself in this perfectly crafted tail from the unique and riveting perspective of Briseis. So elegantly written — a clean burn with no ash. As remarkable as this book is, what stands out most for me is Ms. Atherton‘s reading of it. She is, quite simply, superb.

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Bleak

The story of the women of Troy makes sense, it’s the aftermath of savage war and all women have been brutalized and are now slaves. I’m not a person that needs happy endings but I did wish for a few more redeeming moments. It’s hard for me to imagine such horror and women living in said horror working against each other or in spite of one another. Maybe I just can’t comprehend the situation.

I am thoroughly enjoying all the recent Greek story retellings but I’m afraid Pat Barkers are a bit to harsh for me.

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Be sure to read the series in order

Beautiful writing but the plot is thin. I love nearly all retelling of the Greek myths, and this telling from the women’s perspective after the Trojan war is rightly anticlimactic.