The First World War in Pat Barker’s ‘The Silence of the Girls’

Excellent analysis, argument and read

Tragic Geek

Back in 2019, I set out to read all the new novels about the Trojan War, focalised on the perspectives of various ‘silent’ women in the Iliad. I didn’t get very far, because though I found it an interesting enough exercise, they left me rather cold. This is not because I’m some sort of Homeric purist – where, after all, would Greek tragedy have been without those slices from Homer’s banquet? – they just weren’t much to my taste.

One that stood out for me, however, was Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, not only because I love Barker’s prose, but because I felt that she was doing something much more ambitious than simply exploring the ‘silence’ of the slave women. Inevitably, in the process of writing such works of classical reception, writers invoke contemporary tropes and psychological or societal ideas in order to make their narratives…

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