Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thanks for the Dramatis Personae

Conspirata: A Novel of Ancient Rome
By Robert Harris

Every now and again, a writer gets ahead of himself. Tiro, scribe of ancient Roman consul Cicero, created a record of the history of Rome in its most tumultuous time - records that were subsequently lost. In his Roman trilogy (this is Book 2; Book 1 is Imperium and Book 3 is under wraps so far), Robert Harris attempts to rewrite those records in Tiro's words. A noble venture if ever; if Conspirata is anything to go by, it's overdone.

The problem with this novel is that it tries to do too much, so much so that in rewriting Tiro's records he has made a highly academic work. I had to keep looking back at the dramatis personae to make sense of who was doing what, such was the clumsiness with which the book was written. This was a major let-down for me because I had expected much more from Harris.

Nonetheless, aside from the way it was written, the book is pretty good and gives a good account into the workings of the Roman Republic in its twilight years, even as Caesar prepared to grab power and end the Republic. I'll be taking a break from Harris now but will try to get hold of Imperium

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