“If the moments sometimes clash awkwardly with the more classical sections of prose, they also force readers to compare the misogyny of ancient Greece with the misogyny of the present.” —Sophie Gilbert review of The Silence of the Girls by novelist Pat Barker
There is no doubt that women and girls have been–and, as recent events show, continue to be– the victims of a “toxic masculinity” that reaches back to the rosy-fingered dawn of Western history and literature. Recently some female writers have taken to reworking the literature of the ancient Greeks from a more modern, feminist perspective, including scholar Emily Wilson’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey and Madeline Miller’s novel Circe.
The latest book of feminist re-telling of Homer’s world is a novel called The Silence of the Girls by English novelist Pat Barker.
Sophie Gilbert, writer at The Atlantic magazine, offers a brief review of Barker’s novel. Gilbert includes the following quote uttered by the book’s narrator and heroine, the princess-made-slave named Briseis:
“I looked at Andromache who’d have to live the rest of her amputated life as a slave, and I thought, We need a new song.”
Gilbert helpfully makes the contemporary connection between women and war:
“The Silence of the Girls is the new song Briseis dreams of: a narrative that weighs what war means to women.”
Patriarchy, under which men, too, have suffered by having to conform to an often brutal version of masculinity, needs to be corrected. Pat Barker’s latest work of fiction (a book I have not yet read) may prove to be a leading song of liberation that all women and men need to hear.