24 July 2009

Review: Imperium by Robert Harris

In the years before I started blogging, I kept notes about the books I read. Every once in a while I post mini-reviews of books I read in my pre-blogging days. Enjoy.

Imperium is the first in a trilogy set in ancient Rome. It is written from the viewpoint of Marcus Tullius Tiro, who was Marcus Cicero's personal secretary. Both men are quite accomplished: Tiro invented shorthand and authored several books, including a biography of his master. Cicero, of course, was the famous Roman orator, lawyer, and statesman.

The novel is meant to be a re-creation of Tiro's biography (which was lost in the Middle Ages), and the story takes us from Cicero's humble beginnings to his life as a daring lawyer and finally to his rise as a major political figure. Harris introduces us to ancient Rome, including family life, social climbing, and the Senate floor. Of course many famous Romans play a part in the book, and we meet the likes of Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, and Cato.

Imperium presents a wonderful portrait of Rome before Pompey and Ceasar became rulers. Cicero's path to power is a fascinating story of politics and corruption, plotting and secrecy. It was especially interesting to read about Marc Anthony as a young man and to see the beginning of the rift between Ceasar and Pompey, which occurred years before they became co-consuls.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Simon & Schuster Audio) read by Simon Jones. My reading notes have just one word for the narration: Terrific.

I highly recommend this novel to historical fiction fans. The book is also a terrific supplement to the HBO series Rome, which begins at a time somewhat after the story told in Imperium. The second book in the trilogy, Lustrum, is supposed to be published in 2009, and I am impatiently waiting for its release.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2007
ISBN-13: 9780743498661


Elizabeth Spann Craig 7/24/09, 7:26 AM  

It sounds like it took a while for the sequel to come out! I'm sure the research was extensive.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Stephanie 7/24/09, 7:29 AM  

Smart idea! I never kept a list of books read, but my Mom did. I was surprised to find her book after she died, but wasn't at all surprised that in 2007 she read more than 100 books!

serendipity_viv 7/24/09, 7:41 AM  

This sounds interesting. I have always thought Ancient Rome an interesting topic to read up on.

Sandy Nawrot 7/24/09, 8:03 AM  

This is one of those books that I would never in a million years pick up, but if I did, I would love. I really do love historical fiction, but sometimes it is hard for me to get excited about it. I know I've said it before, but am quite impressed with the fact you took notes prior to blogging!

Beth F 7/24/09, 8:10 AM  

Stephanie: How cool to run across your mom's book of book notes!

Sandy: I think you would love this one.

I wasn't always the greatest about keeping notes. I had this one listed as an audiobook but I forgot to record who read the book and what I thought about the narration!

Julie P. 7/24/09, 8:12 AM  

I absolutely love books about Rome so I'm going to have to check this one out! I read Pompeii by the same author (or at least I think it's the same guy.)

Lezlie 7/24/09, 8:21 AM  

I *loved* this book! I'm very anxious to get my hands on the second book, and may end up ordering it from Book Depository rather than waiting for the US edition.


Anonymous,  7/24/09, 10:50 AM  

Last year I read Cicero by Anthony Everitt just sort of by accident and I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. Stories of ancient Rome are really good! I'm glad you found your notes!

Kim 7/24/09, 11:58 AM  

This was one of the books we read while traveling in Italy. It added a lot to our wanderings around the Forum area. We also enjoyed Pompeii.

Bernadette 7/24/09, 11:38 PM  

A thank you for your blog is at http://reactionstoreading.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/i-keep-coming-back-for-more/

Marg 7/25/09, 12:02 AM  

I have a whole list of authors that I am going to get to one day, and this guy is one of those!

Anonymous,  7/25/09, 11:13 AM  

Sounds like a perfect audio book for an upcoming road trip with my husband.

Anonymous,  7/25/09, 11:45 AM  

I've been keeping lists of what I'm reading too, since about 2002, even though I just started blogging this year. It's a great idea to post small reviews of books you've read before!

Imperium is definitely a book I'd like to read. I have "Pompei" from the same author in my TBR pile, but haven't gotten to it yet!

bermudaonion 7/25/09, 4:19 PM  

I loved studying Rome when I was in school, so this sounds great to me!

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