Primary Genre(s): Mythology, Fiction, Retelling
Published: 11 Sept 2018 by Doubleday
Page count: 304
My Format: Audiobook via Overdrive
Ending: Not memorable
Would I recommend it: No
Commission Link: https://amzn.to/2Kt4Nts
My rating: ★★☆☆☆
Synopsis from Goodreads
The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.
When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.
Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.
I do not understand the hype surrounding this book. This book has been marketed as a retelling of The Iliad by Homer as told from the forgotten women’s perspective… but that isn’t want I got. Here are my pros and cons:
- Achilles was the most interesting character in the book.
- Interesting idea and horrible execution. Having the female character Briseis narrate the story doesn’t mean it is told from the woman’s perspective. Sure we got a little bit of her opinions and thoughts at the beginning of the book, but so much of the story was just a history of Achilles and Agamemnon! As a matter of fact, a huge hunk of the book is told from Achilles’ perspective! The author actually leaves the “women” behind in her own book that claims to give a voice to the women “erased by history”. Unbelievable!
- What little perspective we did get from the “women” was primarily from one woman and it was pretty darn repetitive. What about all the other women?
- I read beforehand that there were quite a few modern slang terms used in the book and they weren’t kidding. It is distracting.
- I listened to the audiobook and listening to a story about Greeks and Trojans in British and Irish accents was very weird.
- I didn’t connect to Briseis at all. Her story was not interesting enough to make me care. She hated her situation, sure, but she had no depth.
- The book synopsis says “[The author] offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations.” This does not describe the book I read at all.
I stopped listening to this audiobook twice to read something else. I was that bored and uninterested. I don’t know why I picked it back up again twice and continued listening, but I did.
I honestly believe I probably would have enjoyed this book at least a little bit more if it hadn’t been so heavily hyped as a female perspective of The Iliad. Since that is not what was delivered, I feel misled.
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