A GUARDIAN BEST BOOK OF THE 21ST CENTURY
From the Booker Prize-winning author of Regeneration
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, the Costa Novel Award and the International DUBLIN Literary Award
There was a woman at the heart of the Trojan war whose voice has been silent - till now. Discover the greatest Greek myth of all - retold by the witness that history forgot . . .
'Magnificent. You are in the hands of a writer at the height of her powers' Evening Standard
'Chilling, powerful, audacious' The Times
Briseis was a queen until her city was destroyed. Now she is slave to Achilles, the man who butchered her husband and brothers. Trapped in a world defined by men, can she survive to become the author of her own story?
Barker, author of the Booker-winning The Ghost Road, speculates about the fate of the women taken captive during the Trojan War, as related in Homer's Iliad. Briseis, queen of the small country of Lyrnessus, was captured by the Greek forces and awarded to Achilles, fated to serve him as slave and concubine. Through her eyes readers see the horror of war: the sea of blood and corpses, the looting, and the drunken aftermath of battle. When Agamemnon demands that Briseis be handed over to him, Achilles reacts with rage and refuses to fight, and when his foster brother and lover Patrocles is killed, having gone into battle in Achilles's stead, Briseis becomes the unwitting catalyst of a turning point in the war. In Barker's hands, the conflict takes on a new dimension, with revisionist portraits of Achilles ("we called him the butcher") and Patroclus (he had "taken his mother's place" in Achilles's heart). Despite its strong narrative line and transportive scenes of ancient life, however, this novel lacks the lyrical cadences and magical intensity of Madeline Miller's Circe, another recent revising of Greek mythology. The use of British contemporary slang in the dialogue is jarring, and detracts from the story's intensity. Yet this remains a suspenseful and moving illumination of women's fates in wartime.