on 7 November 2011
There is nothing new here but Massie tells the tale from an enriching perspective; from the viewpoint of one of Caeser's lieutenants, Decimus Brutus who the reader comes to know intimately, and admires tremendously. It's high tragedy by the time the assassination looms. There is tenderness in this deeply personal take on the violent demise of the great man. The book is perhaps a little sluggish in the first half but it's never less than perfectly readable.
on 14 February 2005
Decimus Marcus Brutus, aka Mouse. The narrator, and one of those responsible for stabbing Caesar to death (don't worry, this isn't giving the story away). The general's perspective is so humble and inward-looking that I soon felt I knew him as a friend. Every relationship has been masterfully crafted, and Caesar himself seems a god-incarnate - just right. The grim inevitability of it all held me until the last - Mouse both loved and hated Caesar because he knew just as Caesar was the cause of his rise, he would be the man behind his fall.
Be aware that sex is very prevalent, generally dealt with well in my opinion; and that although this novel has only one swear word (as far as I can remember - possibly discounting the sex), it is the single best use of an expletive I have ever read.
But then who ever said in Rome they were abstinent, tea-total and kind-mouthed? Massie probably gets it just right, a difficult task.
on 5 January 2004
Massie brings to life the period of Caesar's dictatorship for life and his assassination. He tells the story from the outside, using one of Caesar's most trusted generals, a noble from an old family, as narrator. This device gives the reader a good sense of how the Roman aristocracy saw Caesar's rise to power and why some thought that he had to be killed.
What this book is not is a view of Caesar from the inside. We never really learn what drives him or why he left himself open to murder the way he did. That's for another novel.
Massie is very effective in emplying modern, even slangy diction, in a believable way. He is also strong on conveying a feeling of what daily life in Rome was like. And he seems to know his facts.
on 12 March 2016
I don't know why this isn't more widely acclaimed. Reading this I was looking through Brutus's eyes, I was back in ancient Rome. The author conveys the mindset of the time; acting decisively is not a choice in this world it is a must. The modern mind comes across as a pampered blob in comparison.
The first two thirds of this were a little difficult to get through, perhaps due to a certain lack of narrative drive, though I am a fan of Roman history and have read and loved all of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. It picked up in the final third with the run up to the assassination.