First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Here is the story of The Iliad as we’ve never heard it before: in the words of Briseis, Trojan queen and captive of Achilles. Given only a few words in Homer’s epic and largely erased by history, she is nonetheless a pivotal figure in the Trojan War. In these pages she comes fully to life: wry, watchful, forging connections among her fellow female prisoners even as she is caught between Greece’s two most powerful warriors. Her story pulls back the veil on the thousands of women who lived behind the scenes of the Greek army camp – concubines, nurses, prostitutes, the women who lay out the dead – as gods and mortals spar, and as a legendary war hurtles towards its inevitable conclusion. Brilliantly written, filled with moments of terror and beauty, The SIlence of the Girls gives voice to an extraordinary woman – and makes an ancient story new again.
We are done with another work week! The weekend is waving! I hope that you are ending or have ended the week with flying colors. I hope nothing untoward happened during the week and you were able to accomplish everything that you set out to complete at the start of the week. Cheers to accomplishing everything you had to do! For those who are weary and those whose patience has been stretched thin, I hope you get to rest and recover during the weekend. On top of this, I hope that everyone is doing well, physically, mentally, and spiritually. With new subvariants of the COVID 19 virus still emerging, I hope that you still practice the minimum safety protocol. Let us remain vigilant and cautious, especially when we are outside the safety of our homes. Let us beat this virus together.
A part of my weekly blogging and reading routine is the First Impression Friday update. This will also be my last FIF update for April, which has effectively turned into an extension of my March reading month. I struggled to come up with a reading theme so I stuck to reading the works of female writers. Just like my March reading journey, my April reading journey was brimming with interesting and insightful books. To spice up the experience, I have been alternating new-to-me writers and not-so-new-to-me writers. Earlier today, I completed my 30th Agatha Christie book, Death on the Nile, the movie adaptation of which was released this year. My current read is Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls.
The Silence of the Girls is my first novel by the British writer although my original plan was to read her Booker Prize-winning book, The Ghost Road. But I learned that it was the last book in a trilogy so I am pushing it back until I obtain and read the first two books in the trilogy. I was also planning to read her latest novel, The Women of Troy, as part of my 2021 reading catch-up. But then again, I learned that it was the second book of a duology. I had no choice but to read the first book, The Silence of the Girls, which I was able to obtain despite some delays. Yes, that was how I found myself reading The Silence of the Girls.
One of the reasons why I wanted to read Barker’s Troy duology was because it was a retelling of Greek mythology. Besides, I love Greek mythology. At the heart of The Silence of the Girls is Briseis, a Trojan queen and the childless wife of King Mynes of Lyrnessus. In the original story, Briseis was a minor character whose presence for forgettable at best. This is one of the reasons why I like retellings: they give voices to characters whose roles have been mainly dismissed in the original text. This is also the case for Circe in Madeline Miller’s book of the same title. Another Greek mythology retelling I loved was Miller’s debut novel, A Song For Achilles. The book gave a more prominent voice to Patroclus, Achilles’ best friend and speculated lover.
Speaking of A Song for Achilles, Briseis was also part of the story. She was given more voice by Miller compared to the original but her voice was secondary to that of Achilles and Patroclus. But here are Achilles and Patroclus again. Briseis, on the other hand, is again their captive. I guess the trio’s lives are forever intertwined. But since this is a different book, a different voice, and a different writer, I have to reset my preconceived notions of what the book has in store and approach the book with a fresh lens. I am just five chapters into the story and I have been rebuilding the image of Troy and of Achilles’ camp in my mind, guided by Barker’s writing and Briseis’ voice.
What I want to know was how Barker depicted “the silence of the girls” and its implication in the story of Briseis. Were Briseis and her fellow Trojan women without an agency that they were muted entirely? I understand that the story was primarily narrated by Briseis and I have noted as well that dialogues were sparse or nonexistent at all. Is this going to be an internal monologue? This would be a great way of understanding Briseis, hence, transforming the story into a character study. I also want to see how Barker will reinterpret her role in the conclusion of the Trojan War.
With this being said, I hope to finish the book over the weekend. It does seem like a slender read. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. For now, happy weekend! And as always, happy reading and take care!