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Collen McCullough's Rome Series

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Thu February 19th, 2009, 6:28 pm

Posted by Toelistangan
I read Antony & Cleopatra and I like it. McCullough made a good narration on the political situation during that period of time (around 40 BC) as well as description on main characters and their political problems.


I agree, she does do that, but to me that was the problem - it felt much more like a narrative than a novel. Mind you, I guess the same could be said of some of the other books in the "Masters of Rome" series. I suppose I just found it lacking in a bit of the zing which such a dramatic tale deserves.

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Margaret
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Postby Margaret » Thu February 19th, 2009, 7:59 pm

I think this series is a stunning achievement. McCullough goes very deep into her characters' psyches, giving me the feeling of living in ancient Rome as I read, both from the perspective of the physical and political setting and the psychological. It's not that common for an author to excel at both. These are books about Roman politics, and the level of detail can be too much for readers primarily interested in more personal stories.

My favorite was First Man in Rome, but I also liked The Grass Crown very much. The story of Sulla fascinated me. As the series progressed I became a bit less riveted by each novel, until the opening chapter of the one that begiins with Caesar's foray into Britain (Caesar, I think) was finally a little too dry for me. I think part of the problem was that I had been intensively researching pre-Roman and Roman Britain and was just too stuffed with information to feel like reading more at that particular point. I should probably try again.

McCullough is very much a fan of Julius Caesar, whereas I tend to think of him as a charming but ruthless megalomaniac obsessed with amassing power. I like reading novels that provide various perspectives on him, though. He was undoubtedly an extremely complex man - and for better or worse a genius.
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red805
Reader
Location: Southern California

Postby red805 » Fri February 20th, 2009, 4:18 pm

I've read the entire series, and agree with Margaret and sweetpotatoboy, this series is a master work. It's number 1 on my Top 10 list. The level of research McCullough has done is amazing. I do like the earlier books of the series better also, as there is less recitation of events and more character development, especially with Julius Caesar's family members. The series is quite dense, & requires some attentive reading, but I feel as I've had quite an education in Roman society, religion, personalities, and of course history. McCullough's interpretation and fictionalization of historical characters and events seems plausible and logical, and to my (limited) knowledge she does not stray from known fact or chronology. I highly recommend this challenging series.

Ani
Scribbler
Location: Vermont

Postby Ani » Sat February 21st, 2009, 12:06 am

I marvel at the sweep and depth of McCullough's research, but I have never found the magic Rex Warner created in Young Caesar and Imperial Caesar in McCullough's work. In fact, like Margaret, the books I really liked in her epic series were not the ones that chronicled the life of Caesar, but the earlier ones in the sequence - First Man in Rome and The Grass Crown.

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cesco
Scribbler
Location: Chicago

Agreed

Postby cesco » Sat February 21st, 2009, 12:53 am

I adore this series. The depth, the research, the wonderful intuitive leaps from historical fact to probable fiction, the character development - all amazing. And I think it's hard to deny that the earlier books are the best - not only because of the rushed feeling of the latter books, but also the impending sense of loss, as we all know what's coming.

Because of this series, I place Colleen McCullough third in my rankings of favorite HF authors - Dunnett, O'Brian, then McCullough.

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Margaret
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Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
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Postby Margaret » Sun February 22nd, 2009, 10:14 pm

Another interesting series for those who enjoy McCullough's Rome series is Steven Saylor's "Roma Sub Rosa" or "Gordianus the Finder" mystery series beginning with Roman Blood. Saylor, too, is deeply knowledgeable about ancient Rome, and infuses that knowledge into his novels, which contain a lot more depth that the typical historical mystery. He offers a very different, more skeptical, perspective on Julius Caesar when he gets around to that time period.
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Carla
Compulsive Reader
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Postby Carla » Mon February 23rd, 2009, 11:27 am

Good point. I've only read two or three of the Roma Sub Rosa series, but was very impressed and fully intend to read the rest in due course (so many books, so little time.....).
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sweetpotatoboy
Bibliophile
Location: London, UK

Postby sweetpotatoboy » Mon February 23rd, 2009, 12:09 pm

I wasn't that taken with Roman Blood and didn't bother with the rest (historical mysteries rarely do it for me). But Saylor's most recent novel, the epic 'Roma', was excellent.

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Mon February 23rd, 2009, 7:14 pm

Posted by Sweetpotatoboy
Saylor's most recent novel, the epic 'Roma', was excellent.


If you're interested in online book groups, Saylor's "Roma" is shortly up for discussion at Roman History Books and More
http://romanhistorybooks.typepad.com

They're also looking at the topic of the significant Battle of Teutoberg Forest. I noted recently that Harry Turtledove has a novel due out this year on the subject- titled, in the words of Augustus, "Give Me Back My Legions!".
I'll be looking forward to reading that.

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sweetpotatoboy
Bibliophile
Location: London, UK

Postby sweetpotatoboy » Mon February 23rd, 2009, 7:23 pm

"annis" wrote:If you're interested in online book groups, Saylor's "Roma" is shortly up for discussion at Roman History Books and More
http://romanhistorybooks.typepad.com


Thanks for that. Unfortunately, their online chats take place at what is the middle of the night here! But it would be interesting to see what they have to say about it.


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