The Women of Troy, Pat Barber (Hamish Hamilton 2021.307pp,)
Like its predecessor, The Silence of the Girls, this novel is set in ancient Troy during the Trojan War and is narrated by Briseis, Archilles’ concubine whose beauty is surpassed only by Helen, the cause of the conflict. The earlier novel focused on the deaths of the heroes Hector and Archilles during the late stages of the war. In The Women of Troy the Trojans have been deceived by the strategy of the Wooden Horse and are utterly defeated by the Greeks and their city burned, and the Trojan women, now reduced to slavery, are at the centre of the novel.
Briseis is secure, Achilles on the verge of his death having arranged her marriage to one of his followers, thus rendering her safe and in a position of honour. But she is alone in this, the Trojan noblewomen who were her superiors are enslaved or been distributed to Greek leaders as trophy concubines.
The chief impetus of the plot is the issue of the burial of Priam, the king of Troy, who was killed in the final battle by Pyrrhus, Archilles son. Pyrrhus has decreed that the body shall lie unburied, exposed to the elements and the crows. Barker explores the reactions of the women to this impiety to show forth the brutality of ancient warfare and the position of women in that rigidly patriarchal society.
This is a compassionate novel in which the reader comes to sympathise with both the victors and the vanquished, so that even the brutal Pyrrhus is revealed as a more sensitive figure than the one presented in the ancient legends. Those brought up on E.V. Rieu’s magnificent translation of The Iliad may baulk at Pat Barker’s highly colloquial language but it serves her purpose well.
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig Review by Judy Norris
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have the opportunity to re-visit parts of your life and do things differently? As Nora Seed contemplates leaving this mortal coil, she finds herself in the purgatorial Midnight Library. Assisted by her school librarian she is given a second chance at life and, what’s more, she can choose how she wants to live it. In this thought-provoking, fascinating novel author, Matt Haig, sends a strong message ‘to be careful what you wish for’.
THE APPLE NEVER FALLS by Liane Moriarty Review by Jan Pike
I have been a fan of Liane Moriarty for a long time having read many of her books and listening to an author talk at The Sydney Writers Festival a couple of years ago.
I hesitated to read her latest book after my disappointment with the previous one, Nine Perfect Strangers. The Apple Never Falls certainly is a winner!
Joy and Stan Delaney are ex-champion tennis players who went on to run their own Tennis School. They now play socially while maintaining their competitive streak. Their four adult children were also encouraged to play tennis with none of them reaching great heights. Each family member harbours some resentment of what might have been.
Once Stan and Joy have sold their business, they plan to relax and enjoy life, but all is not as it appears. A stranger arrives on their doorstep one evening and everyone’s life is thrown into chaos. Joy Delaney has disappeared, and the children wonder whether their parents’ marriage and the family history was all a façade. Were things never as rosy in the Delaney household as they appeared?
This is a story about love, loss, sibling rivalry, soul searching and possibly a normal dysfunctional family. The final chapters take the reader right up to the current pandemic! The writing is quirky and insightful. It is 516 pages long but a real page turner which, sadly, comes to an end very quickly.