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Lustrum [Kindle Edition]

Robert Harris
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

The rise of Robert Harris as one of the UK's premier novelists has been something of a phenomenon. His breakthrough book was, of course, Fatherland, and even though the premise (Germany had won the Second World War and occupied Britain) was not original, the treatment was astonishingly assured. From that date onwards, a series of remarkable books flowed from his metaphorical pen: Archangel, Enigma and the much-acclaimed Ghost. But if one element has distinguished Harris’s career, it is his wholly admirable refusal to be typecast with regard to genre. The thriller may be his natural home, but he has shown an immense skill at dealing with historical subjects and the past: one of his most impressive novels was the massive and ambitious Pompeii (recently on the point of being filmed by Roman Polanski before his own past came back to haunt him).

And here's Lustrum, another historical novel that cannily utilises elements of the thriller but attempts something far more challenging than most proponents of that genre. Harris’s continuing theme is the battle for power, and this Rome-set narrative deals with the years around 63BC when Cicero was Consul of Rome, building to the unstoppable accession to power of the canny and ruthless Caesar. Rome, in the process of consolidating its massive empire, resounds to the sounds of a no-holds-barred struggle for influence. The protagonists here are the canny consul Cicero, the equally Machiavellian Caesar, the Republic's eminent general Pompey and the hyper-rich Crassus. These real historical figures (and others, including the psychopathic Catilina) are stirred into a very heady brew by Robert Harris, beginning when the body of a child, grotesquely mutilated, is discovered. The trial and execution that follows plunges the city of Rome into a ferment as destabilising as anything it has faced.

This is Robert Harris at his considerable best, evoking the ancient past with a vividness that few of his contemporaries can muster. But apart from the richly detailed historical pageant on offer in Lustrum, the real coup of the book lies in the creation of the character of Cicero: wonderfully realised, with all the contradictions and charm of his nature acting as the perfect fulcrum for this sprawling but utterly persuasive narrative. --Barry Forshaw


"[Lustrum] stands on its own merits as a thoroughly engaging historical novel. Republican Rome, with all its grandeur and corruption, has rarely been made as vivid as it appears in Harris's book. The allure of power and the perils that attend it have seldom been so brilliantly anatomised in a thriller." (The Sunday Times)

"Harris never makes his comparisons between Rome and modern Britain explicit, but they are certainly there. And that's the principal charm of his ancient thrillers - their up-to-dateness." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Intrigue and excitement all the way, brilliantly read by Oliver Ford Davies." (Kati Nicholl Daily Express)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 687 KB
  • Print Length: 466 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099406322
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (7 Sep 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0041RRH86
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,519 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Robert Harris is the author Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium and The Ghost - all of which were worldwide bestsellers. His work has been translated into thirty-three languages. He was born in Nottingham in 1957 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He worked as a reporter on the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama programmes, before becoming Political Editor of the Observer in 1987, and then a columnist on the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. In 2003 he was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards. He lives near Hungerford in Berkshire with his wife and their four children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
125 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark deeds and infighting 16 Oct 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Make no mistake, this book is about politics. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's Rome in 60BC - this novel could easily be set in Westminster or Washington, present day. In other words, politics and politicians don't change. They conspire, they lie, they seek alliances with enemies merely to further their own ambitions. And in the end, they're either found out or destroyed. Harris' novel 'The Ghost' has a very thinly-veiled Tony Blair and I don't think the present shenanigans can have been far from Harris' mind even when writing about Cicero. Take this from early on : "Now we have occupied Syria. What business do we have in Syria? This is going to require permanent legions stationed overseas." Sound familiar? Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the book very much. I thought at first it didn't have the sheer lust for power evident in 'Imperium' but once you start to see Julius Caesar's plotting, you realise this isn't the case. At the end, I found myself wondering how I felt about Cicero. Did I feel sorry for him or was he the victim of his own machinations? You can decide for yourself. Excellent cover, I thought - the hounds and the deer. Highly recommended but I'm not sure it's going to be to everyone's taste.
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139 of 146 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expiation (Lustrum) after Power (Imperium) 2 Oct 2009
By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lustrum is the deserving sequel to Harris's Imperium - though it is also readable on its own. It picks up where the first book of the trilogy-in-progress left off: Cicero has just been elected consul. The year 63BC begins. Cicero is faced with the same hostility from corrupt senatorial peers, oblivious to threats from the immensely wealthy Crassus and the rising stars of popular Rome that are Caesar and Pompey. But Cicero also makes mistakes. He turns down a land law amid rural distress, debt, and a grain shortage. The demagogues soon seize upon this to launch the murkiest and most desperate conspiracy the Republic has seen. This is led by none other than Catiline, the debauched patrician playboy whom Cicero had to defeat at the consular stakes. And Catiline has friends, he is unafraid of violence, and is bent on vengeance.

Cicero's life was eventful in itself, but it also took place within the most tumultuous of Roman times. And Cicero's own writings were profuse. So Harris's trilogy can afford to rely on, at times becoming almost a palimpsest of, the original documents, and the Imperium series are that rare thing: a historically faithful work that is at the same time a great yarn. Though I'd read and enjoyed some Harris before, I heard of the Ciceronian trilogy through an eminent professor of classics. She said she found no historical mistake in it, and that it captures the spirit of the times as she imagines it. This is isn't to belittle Harris as a storyteller. He knows when to build anticipation and what to insist on for drama. The idea was brilliant of having the story told by Tiro, Cicero's slave secretary, who actually existed and wrote a lost biography of his master. If anything, Lustrum offers more action and tension than Imperium.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quousque tandem? 5 Oct 2009
Magnificent historical recollection of tragic times through the life of a protagonist, the staunch defensor of the Roman Republic Marcus Tullius Cicero.I like how the Catiline Conspiracy is narrated as if it were a modern polytical thriller,yet making us feel immersed in those ancient times quite convincingly,making us appreciate the tragic moral dilemmas Cicero had to face, amidst ambiguous friends,unrelenting foes,and powerful men as Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. A great novel to rival Steven Saylor's "Catilina's Riddle" in Roma sub Rosa series!
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Graves Robber 18 Nov 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Robert Harris is today's Robert Graves, not only in his choice of subject matter, but in his storytelling. Just as Graves chose a slave to tell the story of Count Belisarius in 1938, Harris chooses Tiro. This is no minor matter or coincidence, as the entire point of view comes from this narrator, giving him both intimacy and distance, a trick Graves used to excellent effect. Harris takes up Graves' cynical view of Rome - as in both the Claudius books and Belisarius - complete with a raging politics of immorality and power grabbing. The one missing ingredient is the centrality of venal women in all of Graves' books.In this day of feminism, women are minor characters characters, occasionally bad (Clodia, for example) or weak (wife Terentia -'Marriage to you has been the only purpose of my life!'), but the true villains are all testosterone fuelled men like Caesar, Pompey, Catilina, etc. This makes Lustrum read a bit old fashioned, and Graves much more modern.

Cicero is a legal Belisarius, moral and upright, in a world that does not value this kind of valour. Harris fills the story with wordy set pieces, so appropriate for his windbag hero. The best part of the story is how Cicero is brought down by his own hubris and blindness to other's resentments and designs. Is Cicero meant to be Harris's former friend Tony Blair, another windbag brought down by hubris? I enjoyed the tale despite all of this. I don't think Harris is great at dialogue, and his tale is also let down sometimes by leaden prose. But there is enough in Lustrum to keep you reading until the story comes to second act conclusion. Now we await the third.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't help but love and hate Cicero at the same time
We all know this is a fictional account of Cicero's (and Tiro's) life but the way Robert Harris brings ancient Rome to life makes any discrepancies forgiveable. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Matthew Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a great read.
Great read, full of interesting characters, plot twists and intrigues. Conveys you back to ancient Rome through characters you think you now already. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John McCarthy
5.0 out of 5 stars It grabs you right by the wotsits....
As per the previous Robert Harris books that I have read they grab you firmly by the wotsits (that is a metaphorical statement as i am certainly female and have no wotsits) and do... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rachaelle Milton
4.0 out of 5 stars robert harris does it again
brilliant ,i am definitely hooked on roman history now ..the detail ,the sceming, the power ,the fall from power, the pasion
Published 2 months ago by eunice
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
Having read Imperium previously I planned but never quite got around to Lustrum until now. Again Cicero takes centre stage. Read more
Published 2 months ago by David Finn
5.0 out of 5 stars So good
I am so enjoying Robert Harris' books. They are all so different and so well written. This one captures the times of the Roman Empire so well.
Published 2 months ago by granny
4.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyable account of Ancient Roman Politics
This is a well written, easily readable account of the lives of some of ancient Rome's most famous statesmen, in perhaps its most interesting period.
Published 4 months ago by Sam
5.0 out of 5 stars Lustrum is a gripping book and essential to those readers who love...
Beautifully researched and well written. I couldn't put it down. The author is a literary genius, of this there is no doubt.
Published 5 months ago by Mary Sadtler
5.0 out of 5 stars Lustrum
Brilliantly told story bringing to life the politics of Rome and the rivalries of the greats of the Roman Empire.
Published 5 months ago by malcolm cowing
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I never thought I would be even remotely interested in early Roman history let alone Cicero. As a tourist to Rome I've been to the forum and wandered amongst the cobbled roads but... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Alik
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What is great oratory, after all, except the distillation of emotion into exact words? &quote;
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he possessed that most attractive form of courage: the bravery of a nervous man. After all, any rash fool can be a hero if he sets no value on his life, or hasnt the wit to appreciate danger. But to understand the risks, perhaps even to flinch at first, but then to summon the strength to face them down that in my opinion is the most commendable form of valour, and that was what Cicero displayed that day. &quote;
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He had learned well from Cicero the tricks of political campaigning: keep your speeches short, remember names, tell jokes, put on a show; above all, render an issue, however complex, into a story anyone can grasp. &quote;
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