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Lustrum
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129 of 133 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 16 October 2009
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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142 of 150 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 2 October 2009
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. It is also darker, beginning with the murder of a child, and more lurid, answering our fantasies of Roman decadence.

Lustrum became the term for the five-year period between each taking of the census, when the censors purged the morally unfit from the body politic, especially from the senate. As the late Republic's conflicts became increasingly acrimonious, one after the other of the censuses failed to be performed - and Cicero became ever more anxious at what he saw as a double tale of moral and constitutional decay. We will eagerly be awaiting the final episode of Harris's trilogy: into the Civil War.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2010
This is an absolutely fabulous book and it had me completely gripped from the first to the last page. I never would have thought that I would have enjoyed a book about Roman politics until I read the first in the series `Imperium'. It seems that politics never changes and never will change; false promises, double dealings, treachery, popular `knee-jerk' legislation are likely to abound long into the future.

The book follows Cicero and his career from its highest point so far as `Father of the Nation' to its lowest point when the triumvirate, especially Julius Caesar, extend their stranglehold over the Roman Senate. The second book continues in the relentless pace established in the first and it is not long before Cicero and Tiro are facing a new unexpected challenge. The book is set during the period when truly legendary Roman politicians and soldiers walked the streets of Rome and as a result, the web of political alliances and enmities is both highly complex and dangerous for all involved.

I am convinced that you will struggle from skipping ahead just to see what happened, as I did when reading this book. At the end, I had to cover the approaching text with my hand to stop me from cheating, skipping ahead and ultimately spoiling the surprise! Disciplined reading is therefore a must.

There is little more to say in a review of this nature without ruining the plot for prospective readers. If Roman history interests you, particularly the wheelings and dealings of the Roman Senate during its golden age, then this series is highly recommended.

The book is about politics, yes, but boring it most definitely is not.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2009
Historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine. A good HF could become a vehicle for time travel in which you are transported to a different place and period where it is sometimes exotic other times erotic it could be frightening and it could be exhilarating but it is a Joyce experience. In Lustrum I have experienced all this and it was exceptionally great. I have not read a captivating and intriguing HF for some time. The characters are in full dimension you can nearly see them and interact with them. the setting is grand that being Rome of the ancient world while I am immersed in this novel I have felt myself experiencing the ruff and tangle in standing among the multitude of masses in the forum finding myself cheering and sometimes booing at the spectacles displayed with the repulsive stink of the mob overwhelming and the chanting haunting. The period is volatile and the consequences of the actions taken have become a watershed that influenced the course of history. The level of intrigue and political maneuvering in Lustrum is so intense how not with such larger than life characters Cicero, Caesar, Pompey, Cato the lot. It reflects the on goings in state and government affairs in any period and in particular our time. Imperium was great but Lustrum was superlative. Robert Harris's plot lines and themes are uncanny, at times I felt myself being swept in the vortex of political alliances and senatorial debates. This is a historical political thriller of the first order and from my experience you don't find them in abundance. It is in a class with Archer's First Among Equals and Ejii Yoshikawa's Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan.I would advice reading Tom Holland Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic before getting in to Lustrum it will provide the perspective that will make Lustrum a fascinating and informative read.

Robert don't make us wait long for the third installment of this trilogy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Lustrum is the second novel in a planned trilogy recounting the life of Cicero. In both Pompeii and Imperium Robert Harris tells his stories with many references to modern political life.

This trend is continued in Lustrum. He describes vividly the wheeling and dealing in Roman life with promises made to differing factions and gifts for favours. The external threats (or perhaps I should say, the perceived external threats) lead to restrictions on freedoms within Rome. The senate adopts emergency powers to go to war on dubious evidence. There is a reference to Pompey having entered "lands in which we had no business". Political rivalries and jealousies abound. Cicero, despite all his cunning and cleverness, finds himself outmanoeuvred.

The character of Cicero himself is complex. He is a strong advocate of the system but is not averse to corruption and is willing to take money in exchange for his support. He is excellent at oratory and is a brilliant speechmaker but much less capable of actual government. Did Robert Harris have a modern leader in mind?

I enjoyed Lustrum but found it suffered from having too many undifferentiated characters - though the list of characters at the end was helpful. The device of using Cicero's enslaved secretary to narrate the story works well. Tiro proves himself to be perhaps the only truly heroic character in the book.

I look forward to the final part of the trilogy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2011
Without doubt Robert Harris is a very compelling writer. Lustrum moves at a furious pace and once started it is hard to put it down. He has clearly researched his subject and used his original sources to good effect without being stuffily pedantic. His portrayal of the 'baddies' is especially gripping. I think his strength is to convince you that this is exactly what did happen all those years ago even if you know something of the original history of the time. The feeling of life in a state that was fabulously successful and yet was strangling itself in tradition and bitter rivalries is real as is the fact that every day life is more squalid than romantic. In this book Rome is a nasty place to live in modern terms. I think that in this book Robert Harris is much more on top of his narrative than in the first Cicero book, 'Imperium'. I am looking forward to the third part of what must be a trilogy - history demands that the tale must be completed!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Lustrum is the second volume of Harris's classical trilogy. Picking up where Imperium left off, after the election of Cicero as consul of Rome in 63 BC. Once again, the book continues in the set-up of the first novel, with the story told in the first-person from the point of view of Cicero's secretary Tiro. It follows on immediately from Imperium, starting with the beginning of Cicero's consulship and ending with his exile as a result of the enmity of Clodius.

One of Harris's great strengths is the thoroughness of his research and his absolute mastery of complex historical periods. As some readers of Lustrum will know strands of the story already and Harris weaves in well-known events. An example of this is the plot to assassinate Cicero, to create an utterly convincing quasi-historical narrative. For me this is a very well written and totally plausible life and politics of Cicero. An excellent read that is highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2012
This is the sequel to Imperium, and equal to it in both style and content.
Others have outlined the plot in their reviews, so I will not duplicate their efforts. Suffice to say, that the book is a worthy follow on, and I would urge new readers to read Imperium before tackling Lustrum, as it will make more sense and give you much more enjoyment.
I have not always been a fan of Robert Harris, but this set is really good. The sense of time and place are excellent, and his version of Rome is one that I can identify with, and feel at home in.
For me the pace and plot progression are very good, and I am awaiting the final part of the trilogy with anticipation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2009
I've enjoyed many of Robert Harris's books, and this one is certainly not an exception. The book deals mainly with Cicero's consulship, his changing allegiances and the rise of powers within Rome that seek autocratic power such as Caesar, Crassus, Pompey and Catalina. The book therefore deals with Cicero's famous involvement in the Cataline conspiracy and the subsequent fallout with Clodius. Generally the book is historically accurate in terms of the events, but it does deviate from the order slightly for dramatic effect. In comparison to the previous novel Imperium, Lustrum is as well written but somewhat faster paced and rich with intrigues.
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