I have read a few of Duggan's books and enjoyed them immensely. The writing is typical of Duggan with enough dry humour and cynicism to entertain. However, I found "The Little Emperors" less than wholly engaging because I could not empathise with Felix, the main character in the book. In addition, the transformation of Maria, Felix's wife, from dutiful wife to conspirator and sadistic torturer stretched my credulity a bit - she must have hidden it well.
Alfred Duggan's hero is the completely un-heroic senior administrator, Felix, - who as the treasurer of Britain in the early years of the fifth century AD is struggling to presve his province and himself.
Duggan writes well, because we see the crisis of these years therough Felix's eyes. His is initially a world dominated by court protocol and administrative problems. But gradually he comes to realise - as do we - the overwheening political ambitions of those around him as they jockey for power - the 'Little Emperors' of the title.
Duggan's tale is set against a fully-functioning Roman Britain -- which collapses suddenly almost overnight as a result of the disruption caused to the province by the barbarian invasions of Gaul and its consequent separation from the rest of the Roman Empire.
Whether things really happend like this I am not sure, but what I am sure of is that Duggan's work is well worth reading. I am so glad that this, and his other books are now being re-published - it's about time.
Duggan is one of a wonderful quartet of British fiction writers of the last century. Duggan, along with John Masters, Wallace Breem and George Shipway all wrote stories on imperial themes. The common link betwewen them was India. Masters, Breem and Shipway had all served in the British Indian Army. Duggan did not, but he was stepson of Britain's grandest imperial viceroy, Lord Curzon, and he did serve in the British army in WW2.
This story is set in the fith century AD with the decline of the power of Rome and follows the fortunes of Felix (the treasurer of Britain) through one of the most momentous periods in British history as barbarians invade Gaul and the last of the Roman legions depart to prop up the tottering empire cutting Britain off from the rest of the civilized world. For Felix life becomes a matter of survival. As treasurer he is used by the powerful and ambitious men of his time to aid them to the top, to help make them 'Little Emperors'. Manipulated by his wife and father-in-law, Felix must walk a fine line between the different factions all competing for the ultimate prize.
This is an excellent historical novel from Alfred Duggan. It is well paced with just a hint of dark humour. You can feel the beginnings of decay and of isolation in Britain that seems totally real and the all-or-nothing scrambel to fill the power vacuum which must be somewhere near the truth. A truly worthwhile read.
It is the early Fifth Century: the Roman Empire in the West is coming to an end, and with it Roman rule over Britain. Actually much of its dominion has already ended, with control passing to "federated" "allied" or otherwise de facto independent regional rulers. Felix, the Treasurer of what remains is not happy. His tax base is no longer enough to maintain the civilised system to which he has devoted his life, let alone restore the past glories he dreams of seeing once again. It is perhaps inevitable that, as has happened before, local figures start to think of going it alone, of breaking the link with Rome and keeping the money and power at home in an independent Britannia (and therefore in their particular hands). Felix, much against his will, finds himself playing a part on the ensuing events, events that lead to an outcome.... Well, read the book. Duggan has, as so often, found a byway of history and brought it to life. He captures the atmosphere of a different time very well - we find ourselves sympathetic to Felix, for instance, trapped and out of his depth, even as we see him tolerate or inflict what by our present-day standards would be extreme cruelty. It is a delight to see Alfred Duggan's books coming back into print. We have been without these well-researched, well-written, literate historical novels for too long.
A very impressive novel charting the ups and downs of the 'Little Emperors' who attempt to seize control of Britain after it is cut off from Italy by the barbarian invasion of Gaul. Duggan weaves a credible and exciting story around the few facts that are known of the period and reminds us that, far from being a slow decent, the Roman Empire fell, finally, very quickly from a position of power that had looked unassailable.
An excellent and atmospheric fictional speculation based on the events of the early 5th. century in Roman Britain told from the perspective of a high ranking civil servant of the empire. The story encompasses the turbulent political plotting surrounding the assassination of two self declared emperors in Britain in the political uncertainty caused by the cutting of communications between the empire and the island by the barbarian occupation of Gaul. The main theme of the book is the very effective sense one gets of the sadness and bewilderment of the main character as he sees the institutions and civilisation of the empire crumble away. This is the first book I have read by this author and I intend to look for more!