Happy Friday everyone and thank you for joining me in today’s First Lines Friday post! This is supposed to be a regular feature, but since my last First Lines Friday post was published two months ago now, it’s fair to say I’m not doing so well on keeping it regular!
When I shared that I was doing another of these posts last Sunday, I had no idea which book I was going to feature this week. I have combed through the books on my shelf and I think I have found a good one for you.
Can you guess what it is?
Great Achilles. Brilliant Achilles, shining Achilles, God-like Achilles… How the epithets pile up. We never called him any of those things; we called him ‘the butcher’.
Swift-footed Achilles. Now there’s an interesting one. More than anything else, more than brilliance, more than greatness, his speed defined him. There’s a story that he once chased the God Apollo all over the plains of Troy. Cornered at last, Apollo is supposed to have said: ‘you can’t kill me, I’m immortal’. Ah, yes,’ Achilles replied. ‘But we both know if you weren’t immortal, you’d be dead.’ Nobody was ever allowed the last word; not even a God.
The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker
The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.
When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.
Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.
Historical fiction is one of the genres I read most of, and the sound of the book excites me. So much so, I actually bought a physical copy of the book with a voucher I had this year. I tend to reserve buying physical copies of books so that I’m only buying books I am confident I will love. I do spend vouchers on some new reads now and then, with anything I decide to sort and get rid of myself later going to a charity.
The book includes Greek Mythology, which intrigues me. So far I’ve had a bit of a mixed experience with mythology books, so I can’t wait to see what I make of this one!
What did you think of today’s First Lines Friday post? Do you like the sound of The Silence of the Girls based on the first paragraph? As always, I would love to hear from you!