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.
Author: Pat Barker | Series: None | Format: Audiobook | Narrated By: Kristin Atherton | Length: 10 hours and 45 minutes | Publish Date: September 4, 2018 | Genre: Historical Fiction | Literary Awards: Costa Book Award Nominee for Novel (2018), Women’s Prize for Fiction Nominee for Shortlist (2019) | Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ | Recommend: Yes
“Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, godlike Achilles … How the epithets pile up. We never called him any of those things; we called him ‘the butcher’.”
This one kind of broke my heart. I really am so glad that I got to read this one. It’s like we never hear about the losers in history, because most of the time they don’t get to tell their stories. So hearing about Briseis, a queen in her own right, one that had to deal with being Achilles’ “prize” for sacking her city and killing her husband and brothers really hit something in me.
I think I will always want to revisit this book even for years to come. Hearing about how Achilles was to the losing side of the war – at least for the time being – and how the Trojan women were treated in the Greek camp during this war. Everyone always talks about Helen, how hers was the face that launched a thousand ships, and Briseis even knew her – but nobody talks about the other women that were suffering at the hands of the Greeks. Nobody talks about what they had to endure being prisoners of war, and how they went from free women to slaves in a matter of hours.
I can’t get over this book, and although it’s been a long time since I read it, I’ll recommend it to anyone that wants to hear about the other side of the story. I felt for Briseis, I felt for Patroclus, I felt for Achilles (sometimes) and I really, really, really hated Agamemnon. But then again, who wouldn’t? Thanks to Pat Barker for giving a voice to the women history has seemed to forgot.