Hamish Hamilton has acquired a new novel by Booker Prize winner Pat Barker retelling "one of the most dramatic sequences of events in literature", the Iliad.
Due to publish in Autumn 2018, The Silence of the Girls is a reimagining of the Iliad story from the perspective of Briseis, the captured queen who becomes the possession of first Achilles and then Agamemnon, in the 10 weeks leading up to the death of Achilles which precedes the Fall of Troy.
Publishing director Simon Prosser, who acquired British and Commonwealth rights (including Canada) in the new novel from Barker’s agent, Clare Alexander at Aitken Alexander Associates, praised Barker's "extraordinary skills as a writer" in taking on "one of the most mythic war stories of all", while Barker called it "a radical departure" for her as an author.
The Iliad concerns a war fought over a woman, in which many women played a part, as slaves, as nurses, as unwilling concubines - and yet the voices of the women are "conspicuously silent" in the original text, Barker argues. Seeking to address this, in her retelling of the tale, the author will give voice to one of the women of the Iliad in counterpoint to Achilles’s.
Barker said: "I'm delighted to be continuing my long association with Penguin and in particular to be working again with Simon Prosser as my editor. The Silence of the Girls is a radical departure for me and Simon's enthusiasm for the project has been a terrific encouragement throughout."
Alexander added: "Having originally brought Pat to the Penguin list as an editor there in the late 80s, it is a particular pleasure for me to see that relationship continue to thrive and thrilling to see Pat challenging herself to even greater heights with her latest novel, The Silence of the Girls."