by Pat Barker
from the April 15, 2019 issue of The New Yorker
Pat Barker has deftly chronicled individual trauma of World War I, but it seems that with her most recent novel, The Silence of the Girls, she has started a new phase that goes back much further. The Silence of the Girls was an account of the Iliad from the perspective (mostly) of Briseis, the woman Achilles and Agamemnon fought over in a feud that led to the events Homer laid down over 2500 years ago (and this book was one of my favorites of last year — see my review here). And now we get a story entitled “Medusa.”
However, this story does not take us to the actual time or place of the Greek myth that gives the story its title. “Medusa” takes place in Florence and concerns an art student named Erin, who is there preparing for an exhibition. There is an attack and then Barker — I know only from her interview, not having read the story yet — explores the process trying to recover.
That trauma and its recovery are central to all of Barker’s books that I’ve read, so I’m anxious to see how she does it in a shorter space and in a more contemporary setting.
Please let us know your thoughts below!