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Cormac Farrell "Cormac" (Dublin Ireland)
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Imperium
Imperium
by Robert Harris
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth by fiction, 23 Nov 2007
This review is from: Imperium (Mass Market Paperback)
At the end of this book, Robert Harris states that the majority of the incidents in the book definitely did happen, most of the remainder of the incidents could have happened, and nothing in the book demonstrably did not happen. The thing I most admire about Robert Harris is that he manages to paint this "non fiction" so very convincingly on the amazing canvas which is Rome at the height of its powers.

The book chronicles the career of the famous Roman Senator/Lawyer Cicero, and his mammoth personal struggle to reach the pinnacle of Roman political power, i.e. to attain "Imperium". Hence the title of the book.

It is narrated by his personal secretary (and slave) Tiro, who proves to be an objective and perceptive voice throughout the book.

Tiro chronicles Cicero's enormous personal battles with the Aristocratic Roman establishment in his attempts to achieve his personal goals. In fighting this battle, Cicero finds himself constantly siding with the underdog, the ordinary people of Rome and the provinces (most notably the Sicilians) who appeal to him for help.

It is almost as if they realsied that he needs them as much as they need him. He is, however, not simply a one dimensional "champion of the underdog". His good deeds, and his sense of justice are genuinely felt but at times they conflict embarrasingly with his massive ambition. You can sense the emotional difficulty that this causes him throughout his life.

In his introduction Tiro makes the following observation about Cicero. "If he does not always appear to be a paragon of virtue, well so be it. Power brings a man many luxuries, but a clean pair of hands is seldom among them." A perfect description of a modern politician!!

As ever with Harris the details are fascinating. The workings of the Senate, the pecking order of the senators, the accounting systems for the provincial governors, the complexity of the judiciary, the different levels of societal representation, the voting colleges etc. How much of modern democratic society we owe to this civilisation!

I personally, (having never studied Roman or Classical history in any formal manner), find it astonishing how scientifically, culturally and politically advanced it was, and after the decline of the Roman and Ionian civilisations, how far backwards humanity regressed.

On top of all that, it is a great read!


Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress (Pax Britannica)
Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress (Pax Britannica)
by Jan Morris
Edition: Paperback

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History comes alive., 27 Aug 2007
The great thing about Jan Morris is that she brings so many different qualities to her books. Nostalgia, humour, insight, and wonderful storytelling, all of which are present in abundance in this marvelous account of the Genesis of that most remarkable of Empires. It was an Empire that was cruel, repressive, civilising, gracious and compassionate depending on which subject of the Crown was dispensing the rules to the natives. Being a native of one of the former colonies (Ireland) I am all too familiar with the negative aspects of the Empire. Our famine is at once an epic tragedy and also an indictment of the British Empires lack of compassion. On the other hand when you read this book you cannot but admire the great energy and sacrifice of so many loyal British subjects who lived their lives many miles from their native shores and their families in the belief that they were not only doing their duty for queen and country, but also in the belief that they were genuinely bettering the lives of those around them, primarily by spreading Christianity and Civilisation. I think what Jan Morris succeeds in doing is illustrating the futility of trying to sum up the Empire. It has too many sides to it, some good, some bad, but always so very very interesting. I cant wait to read the other two books in the trilogy.


The Sea
The Sea
by John Banville
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A narrative, not a story., 7 Feb 2007
This review is from: The Sea (Paperback)
Lets get one thing straight, this is typical of John Banville, he sacrifices the story at the altar of style, prose and charachterisation. But it is really only the charachter of Max Morden that is explored in any great depth. He is a typical Banvillian (if the author can make up words, so can I!)character. He is self obsessed, and seems at first glance to be devoid of any feelings. He watches the world in a detached way, describing the porogress of his wifes terminal illness in an almost casual manner. However as the book progresses Banville slowly unearths the deep sadness and depression that has wracked Morden over the years. In the end, we are finally allowed see why he has travelled alone, as a widower, to the place of his childhood summers in the hope that he can make sense of what has happened to those he loved,or perhaps to turn back the sands of time and make sense of his own life. In many ways Banville invites us to draw our own conclusions and I have a feeling that this is what fuelled the frustration of other reviewers of this book. Forget the Man Booker prize, it is a distraction, and only read this book if you know Banville well and understand his style and his motivations. Otherwise read "The Untouchable" and "The Book of Evidence" first to get an easier insight into the author. "The Sea" will probably make more sense to you then. Four out of five stars. The star thats missing is the story, there isn't one.


The Spy Who Came In From The Cold [DVD] [1965]
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold [DVD] [1965]
Dvd ~ Richard Burton
Price: 4.81

138 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic of its kind!!, 15 Nov 2006
This movie is a faithful rendition of one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. The acting is superb, the sets are suitably austere and atmospheric and the plot is simply a work of genius. Forget all the cliches about this being the real thing compared to Bond movies etc. This is quite simply a different genre. It is a story of brutality and of hopelessness.It illustrates how the exploitation of human weakness can be used as an effective weapon of war. The Cold War is in the throes of being forgotten by all but the academics who study the era, but the manner in which it was fought is fascinating, and as evidenced in later adaptations of Le Carres work by the BBC(Smileys People and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)it required minds of rare intelligence and deviousness. The charachter, Smiley, which is expanded upon in the BBC dramas mentioned above has only a small part to play in this movie. But it is a pivotal part because it is he who displays the ultimate ruthlessness which epitomises the Cold Warriors.

The plot in this movie concerns an attempt by British Intelligence to undermine a dangerous East German Abteilung officer by planting a defector, Leamass, played superbly by Richard Burton, into East Germany. But as the plot unfolds we begin to see the real subtlety and manipulation at play that is charachteristic of Le Carre at his stunning best. If you are interested in this era and this type of film it is obviously the classic of its kind.

One thing I find interesting about the Cold War is that it was largely fought without weapons, and yet, as perfectly illustrated in this movie, even stripped of their weapons, men still found a way to fight a war!!

I owned it on VHS and waited for along time for a region 2 compatible DVD. No extras, but I don't care, it's a work of art which doesn't need embellishing.


Smiley's People [1982] [DVD]
Smiley's People [1982] [DVD]
Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: 4.51

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This will never be equalled., 13 Nov 2006
This review is from: Smiley's People [1982] [DVD] (DVD)
The Cold War is over, and for those of us that lived through it, this story carries with it a sort of perverse nostalgia. Did the sun ever shine in those days? Even the Western cities of Paris, Bern/Thun and Hamburg seem to be imbued with that grey half light that we (Westerners) always imagined to form the backdrop for all those cities trapped behind the Iron Curtain. The creatures who inhabit this world are scarred with human frailty. Even Smiley has an "off button" for his human emotions when he smells his prey near at hand. It can never be equalled because the memories of those days are fading fast. Anyone who ever visited the divided Europe will testify that the continent is a differnt place now and it is Le Carre's understanding of what this unnatural atmosphere did to the human condition that provides the genius behind his work. I could not recommend it highly enough. It is a first rate history lesson on the effects of a largely forgotten war.

P.S.

It would be an idea to read or watch "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" first. Although I feel "Smileys People" has more depth and is therefore more challenging and rewarding.


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