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Picturing a World

Women of Troy

I admit I've been reading more than writing in the last few weeks, so here's another recommendation. Last night I finished Pat Barker's new novel, The Women of Troy, a sequel to The Silence of the Girls (2019). I read each compulsively in big gulps. Troy ends full of possibilities for another installment. I hope she writes it!

The Silence of the Girls was structured on Homer's Iliad. One of its achievements was the portrayal of Achilles as both a narcissistic bully and truly the son of a goddess. In The Women of Troy, he's dead, which makes the book less dazzling in one way and even more immersive in another. Certainly I enjoyed being with the main character,  Briseis, again; and it was interesting to have Barker imagine the Greek camp with no direction from Homer. Yes, she borrows motifs from mythology, but this is very much her novel.
A note on language: I believe strongly that historical fiction writers need to monitor their own usage and eliminate locutions tied strongly to a later period. Anachronisms spoil the mood and call into question the writer's knowledge of the period depicted. Retelling myth is different: it takes place in imaginary time anyway. Barker is such a strong writer that she can have a character say to Briseis, "Come on, you don't even like me!" and have it call up modern reactions while summing up something real in two Bronze-Age women's relations.
The Women of Troy is receiving many reviews. For the Chicago Review of Books take on it, click here.

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