The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker Book Review

Author: Pat Barker

Genre: Historical fiction/Retelling

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I received this book from the publisher, Hamish Hamilton – a Penguin imprint, in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker is a retelling of the masterpiece that is Homer’s The Iliad. It is told from the point of view of Briseis, Queen come honorary war prize of Achilles. It is a tale of war, loss and the effects these have on people, told from the perspective of those who feel the pain and heartache of loss and war the most – the women who’re left behind. As a classics Student and a fan of the works of Homer I find retellings of his classical epics fascinating for various reasons, the foremost reason being to see how modern authors can interpret and reimagine such old and powerful tales and how these tales are received in the modern world due to this. A secondary reason being how wonderful it is that these classical epics are still inspiring people today to read and retell them. What I find even more fascinating about this particular retelling is the fact it’s from Briseis perspective, this is something not often done (if at all!) and Barker was ambitious and inspiring in her decision to tell the tale in this way. I was not let down, it is pulled off brilliantly and I enjoyed every second of the tale, as heartbreaking and crushing as it is.

In this retelling, Achilles is depicted as brutal, unloving and unpleasant. Seeing him in this light takes on a whole new experience of the story and Briseis is a very critical judge. I found it a very interesting and unique twist on the story. I was often reminded of Book VI of the Iliad with Hector and his wife Andromache whilst reading this. Throughout The Iliad Hector is seen as the “bad guy” but in Book VI we see how things are from his and his wife’s perspective, all of sudden it is unclear whether they are “bad” at all. All is confused as the views of good and bad are blurred. I find that The Silence of the Girls uses this same technique by taking “godlike Achilles” and making him appear as a brutal murderer in the eyes of Briseis, and therefore in the eyes of the reader.

It is a marvellous book and a thought provoking and beautiful retelling. I enjoyed every second of it and I already know it will be a book I reread and reread again. Some parts are so poignant that they have stayed with me long after finishing the book and I know I will be thinking about this one for a long time.


Mini Reviews…

I’m making mini Reviews a thing over on my bookstagram account, so books I read that aren’t ARCs/Review Copies will be reviewed in a quick, bitsize mini review that’s to the point, quick and simple. I’ll be sharing these in my story highlights but I’ll also be sure to share them here – sometimes with a more elaborate review too!

My first official mini review features a mini book from the Penguin Modern collection. Anaïs Nin’s The Veiled Woman.

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh Book Review

Author: Adam Sternbergh

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 4/5 star

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh is a modern take on the locked-room Murder mysteries of the classic crime authors. It is a story of a small Texan town. A town so small there’s under 100 residents. A town so hidden away and abandoned that the US government feel it’s the perfect place to house hardcore criminals who’ve agreed to be experiments of a radical memory erasing therapy designed to replace witness protection programs. The Blinds is actually not a real town – it’s a prison without bars… and once anyone leaves – they’re never allowed back.

I mean, how incredible does this bizarre plot line sound? I was instantly intrigued when I read the synopsis and eager to grab a copy! One of my anticipated releases of this year and I am certainly not let down! It’s a chilling, addictive and thought provoking read and I devoured it almost in one sitting! Despite the shady backgrounds the characters each have their qualities that make you hope and pray for their happiness. The characters who are just too bad to the bone and fully unlovable are perfectly villainous and nasty – clearly marking them out against the “reformed” criminals in the community. There’s a lot of inter stories being played out too, which draws you along and keeps you addicted between major plot points. I honestly found this super difficult to put down.

The twists! Oh! I was NOT EXPECTING them at all! They really pack a punch! They’re so unexpectedly genius! So obvious once you know and peace together but so far out of any prior hints or signifiers that you literally would not guess unless you knew! Another thing I loved and found completely unexpected is the lgbt “relationship” within the book! It is such a sad and traumatic tiny interstory of the book and it broke my heart! This is seriously favourite book material! It’s certainly going in the top of my favourite reads of the year!

#prancingwithprose Book Club – August Pick

So, after a landslide in voting #prancingwithprose book clubs August read will be Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin. This is a fun and fierce feminist reimagining of Frankenstein that I’m sure you will all love. Be sure to secure your copies for August 1st.

There will be open discussion throughout August as we read the book with a discussion post at the end of the month from the 27th to the 30th. On the 31st we will prepare for our September pick. I aim to keep the reads easy for everyone by keeping the pace casual, you read at your own pace and start when you wish so long as you read within the set month and you’re ready for the discussion in the last week of each month.

My new online book club for all the readers!

Hello! I’d like to formally introduce my new online book club #prancingwithprose that shall be starting August 2018. I’ve been thinking this idea over for months and honestly, it’s something I’m really excited to do. I’ll be hosting this platform wide – meaning my followers and friends at bookstagram, Litsy and here on my blog are welcome to join me and discussions and any relating giveaways will be posted on each platform so everyone can be involved. I will post a shortlist each month of two books to choose between for our following months read, the winning book will be out months pick and then another two books will be up for voting for the following month.

I aim to keep the club very varied so that there is something for everyone, but it will heavily reflect my own tastes as I aim to use this as a way to get down my book TBR and wishlist. However, I’ll always be open to suggestions from book club members if there’s something anyone would like to suggest!

I’m currently working out the short list for August so I will post more updates shortly with our choices for an August pick!

Would you care to join us?

The Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey Book Review

Author: Ceridwen Dovey

Genre: Thriller / Contemporary

Rating: ???????

I received this book from the publisher, Hamish Hamilton, in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book.

In the Garden of the Fugitives is a taut and dark thriller following two people living miles and miles apart as they delve into their darkest pasts and tense futures. It is a story of passion and obsession and it’s dark dark dark. When I was asked if I’d like to review this book I was apprehensive, I almost said no but the style sounded very Donna Tartt-Esque (and I adore Donna Tartt!) and then I saw part of it is set in Pompeii at an archeological dig. At this I couldn’t say no! Having now read the book I can safely say that while it is indeed partly set in Pompeii and it is very Donna Tartt-Esque in style… it’s on a much much much more darkly cringeworthy note, a note that Tartt has never visited.

The characters fittingly were very unlikable and horrible. They each had severe faults of personality and dark secrets that festered on their skin like warts. I hated them, yet they were interesting and kept me wanting to know more. I loved this! I’m all about hateful characters with so much depth you have to hear what they say and Vita and Royce were all this and more. Unfortunately, the story has the same qualities and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

There were parts of this book that had me physically cringing away from the pages. And some parts that made me feel so physically uncomfortable reading that I almost put it down for good. Whilst at the same time I was addicted to the plot, I needed to know what had happened and why it had it happened. I don’t know if I liked this book, if I hated it. If it was good or if it was bad. I’m conflicted entirely on it. It will definitely need a reread or two for me to even consider putting a rating on this bizarrely addictive yet utterly repulsive book.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

Johnathan Cape – 12th July 2018 – Hardback – £14.99

Daisy Johnson’s debt novel turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as is it is moving, Everything Under is a story of family, identity, fate, language, love and belonging that leaves you unsettled and unstrung.

I requested a copy of this book for review so very long ago and received an ARC of it with excitement! I decided to hold off on reading it at the time because the release was so far away but now it’s closer I shall be reading and reviewing this exciting new title! If you enjoy retellings and reimaginings of myths and legends or stories that will leave you feeling unsettled and uneasy then this is one you’ll want in your wish list! Find a brief synopsis below!

Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.

A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.