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Augustus: A Novel

Augustus: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

John Williams
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"The finest historical novel ever written by an American" (Washington Post)

"It would be easy to over-praise this novel; but there does not seem any adequate reason why this temptation should be resisted" (Economist)

"A novel of extraordinary range, yet of extraordinary minuteness, that manages never to sacrifice one quality for the other" (Financial Times)

"Williams has fashioned an always engaging, psychologically convincing work of fiction - a consistent and well-realized portrait" (New Yorker)

"A highly imaginative account of the life and times of Augustus-a brilliant novel" (Library Journal)

Book Description

'Williams has fashioned an always engaging, psychologically convincing work of fiction-a consistent and well-realized portrait' The New Yorker

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This John Williams novel is a real literary treasure. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction in 1973, this is the work of a writer whose skill with language has probably not been equaled since his death some ten plus years ago. "Augustus" is a personal history of the remarkable man who inherited from his uncle, Julius Caesar, a sense of mission to save the faltering Roman Republic and succeeded in making the city state into a well organized, stable and prosperous empire. The author argues, through fictionalized letters between Augustus, his family, friends and rivals, that the reluctant emperor, who preferred the title "First Citizen of Rome", made painful personal choices and sacrifices throughout his life, all in the interest in protecting the Roman state. The last chapter of the book, written as a letter to his last living old friend--Nicolas of Damascus--is Augustus' final reflection on his life. It is as poignant a swan song as you can find in literature and probably captures the man and his life as well as anyone has to date.

"Augustus" has been compared to the "Claudius" books of Robert Graves, which are quite fine as historical fiction. In my opinion, this work by Williams is even better in its language and scholarship and, overall, as a novel. Really one of the best books I read in some time.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
That's right. Three of them. Stoner, Butchers Crossing and Augustus. I know, I wondered myself, how can you write a gripping book about a Roman emperor dead these last two thousand years? Especially as the whole thing, bar the third part, is composed entirely of letters, diary entries and the like. Suffice to say, Williams did it. I cried at the end and I still don't understand why. Reading it is like getting to know someone intimately from chance glances reflected in passing windows. The book is sublime. Part Three, where Augustus finally addresses the reader is, to me, the best text in English I have ever had the good fortune to read. Masterful, honest, illuminating. Read this book, I beseech you. You will not regret it.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underated, unique and witty 28 May 2006
By Anne
I'm just going to tell you to do yourselves a favour and check this book out. Allan Masse, bow your head to the lesser known an appreciated John Williams. "Augustus: A Novel" is written in a very original way, using drafted letters, diaries, memoirs and even poems to tell the story making it a very easy read. You feel that you get to know each of the historical characters and they are written in a believable and stunningly truthful way, it is practically un-faulted. Its only fault is the title, which would have been better, titled as "Augustus and Julia."


Because the book is told in three parts, and each part has a theme. Where part one is about Octavius and his rise to become Augustus, part two and three revolves around mainly him and his daughter Julia, and it is Julia who dominates the eyes and excitement of the reader making her out to be the more interesting and certainly the more likeable of the two. Nonetheless, the father-daughter relationship between the two is quite touching and you can tell honestly that Julia means the world to her father. Other characters there to excite and delight you are Livia, Maecenas, Agrippa and various other people like Tiberius and Julia's partner-in-crime and ambitious lover Jullus Antonius who also draws your attention as the only living son of Mark Antony, falling in love with Caesar's daughter, Julia, in a non-typical Romeo and Juliet way.

Without a doubt, the best Augustus fiction I've read. If you want a good Roman book to read then I advise you to get this out of the library and give it a go.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable 11 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good brisk story line which carries the reader along without losing historical credibility. As good as - probably better than - Graves I Claudius.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner 10 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
History comes alive. A fast-moving but intelligent treatment of a dramatic period of world-history through the convincingly imagined eyes of many of the leading participants. Entirely different in pace and feel to "Stoner", but with essentially the same aim of assessing the value of an individual's life over its course. I enjoyed it immensely.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another winner from Williams 16 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book covers mostly the period from 45 BC to 4 AD, following the rise to power and emporership of Octavius. It is told in the form of correspondence between soldiers, politicians and men of letters of that time. A recipe for tedium, one might think, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is gripping and beautifully written, and shows a deep and detailed grasp of all aspects of civil and military life. It s one of the best books I have read this year, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for literature of the highest quality and informed content.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy follow-up to Stoner 2 Nov 2013
By J. H. Bretts VINE VOICE
On the surface Augustus,at least five years in the making, is very different from its predecessor Stoner. Where Stoner was narrow in focus, an in-depth exploration of the life of a mid-West University professor of English, Augustus is a sweepingly ambitious historical novel about Octavian and the Roman Empire with a huge cast and told in the form of letters, journal entries and other written artifacts. And yet both are distinguished by brilliant artistic skill and intelligence, and similarity of theme - the nature of love, friendship, politics, family relationships. The Roman Empire and its machinations are brought fully to life as are a whole host of major and minor characters.The rediscovery of John Williams is one of the best things in years in American literature. Now onto Butcher's Crossing!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars ... style and content but you can see the same brilliant writing...
Very different from 'Stoner' in style and content but you can see the same brilliant writing coming through in the prose and descriptive delivery. Read more
Published 1 day ago by MR TIMOTHY BROWN
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ruler of the World
This really is quite excellent. I read a brief review of John Williams' work (NYRB I think) where the flexibility of his writing is praised - essesntially a quality American writer... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Bookbinder
5.0 out of 5 stars One to read
one of the most perceptive, persuasive and moving historical novels I have read.
Published 11 days ago by Andrew W Brunt
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting man
As beautifully written as Stoner, showing the same insight into characters (human nature), this is another portrait of a man, this time a great one, who managed to remain more or... Read more
Published 1 month ago by P A Noble
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but preferred 'Stoner'
A painstakingly researched and meticulously composed novel about Caesar's successor. Anyone who's read Graves's 'Claudius' novels or Robert Harris's 'Imperium' and 'Lustrum' will... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rob Hatcliff
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent by an author I hadn't come across.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The letter style of the majority of the book worked well and the information was woven in..... giving differing perspectives. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Shambhala
4.0 out of 5 stars John Williams
Have never read any of his books, am really looking forward to getting into this one and see his take on one of my favourite Roman eras.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Up with the best historical fiction.
Excellent fictive account of the life of Augustus as revealed through the eyes of his friends and himself. Reminded me of Robert Graves. Elegant, well researched and engaging. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nicolas Milne
4.0 out of 5 stars Great author
Having read Stoner was looking for more by this author. Different novel, different style but still interesting, engaging and well written
Published 1 month ago by Mr. C. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Shakespeare
I studied Shakespeare's Anthony & Cleopatra at 18 and wish I had known about this novel. Ancient Rome held absolutely no appeal for me - too big a subject, too complicated, too... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Milo di Thernan
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