Book Review: THE WOMEN OF TROY by Pat Barker

Genre: Historical/General
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - Book 2



Book cover for THE WOMEN OF TROY: title in white on printed-esque design of women in Greek robes below a wooden horse

Troy has fallen and the victorious Greeks are eager to return home with the spoils of an endless war—including the women of Troy themselves. They await a fair wind for the Aegean.

It does not come, because the gods are offended. The body of King Priam lies unburied and desecrated, and so the victors remain in suspension, camped in the shadows of the city they destroyed as the coalition that held them together begins to unravel. Old feuds resurface and new suspicions and rivalries begin to fester.

Largely unnoticed by her captors, the one time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles’s slave, now belonging to his companion Alcimus, quietly takes in these developments. She forges alliances when she can, with Priam’s aged wife the defiant Hecuba and with the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE WOMEN OF TROY covers part of the Troy mythos (and related stories like the Odyssey) that often doesn’t get talked about. The Achilles Story gets told a lot (THE SONG OF ACHILLES and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS to name just two.) Odysseus and the various returns also get a fair bit of attention (like two upcoming books, the next book in this series, THE VOYAGE HOME, and ITHACA.) But the bit between the messy, horrible war and the voyages back? That’s rarer to see.

But that is what THE WOMEN OF TROY is, the women reeling in the direct aftermath of the burning city. It is what I’d call a “direct sequel” to THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS. Briseis narrates again, seeing the fallout and trying to help the women taken as captives as she was once helped when she went through the degrading, abusive first weeks and months of slavery.

It is every bit as brutal and unflinching about what the realities of life would have been like for the women caught up in the sheer idiocy and pride of the men. I liked that we saw Briseis reaching out to help as she was helped, seeing that cycle of kindness amidst the horror, and the slow growth of new friendship and sisterhood.

While Briseis is the main narrator, there are a few chapters from Pyrrhus (who is impossible to like. He’s so pathetic and whinny, and holds too much power without regard) and Calchas (who is so layered and hard to work out – you’d need a whole book to understand him!) The contrast between the two men (and the men and Briseis) adds such an interesting dimension to the book, an understanding of the power dynamics at play as men who are outsiders in many ways perceive it.

It was an engaging read and I liked seeing an exploration of a lesser seen part of the story. I’m intrigued to see the next instalment, which feels like more of a companion than sequel, as it deals with Cassandra’s story.

Read my reviews of other books by Pat Barker:

The Women of Troy (this series):


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