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If you're an intelligent novel reader with a penchant for history and historical characters in particular and you haven't yet discovered Allan Massie, then sit up and take notice! Augustus is the first in a series of novels set in Ancient Rome which Mr Massie is still in the process of producing and is an enjoyable, educational and edifying experience from start to finish. The author is clearly a great scholar and has also written at least one book of history on the period, but he wears his learning lightly. In the preface to this set of fictional memoirs by the Roman emperor, the novelist virtually invites the reader to believe he doesn't care whether or not his take on Augustus is one that the world of academia would endorse. And in the end, it doesn't really matter. The result is so much fun that even if the real Augustus was not actually like this, Massie has created such a wonderful character it doesn't matter that he could have existed. Of course it is a partisan view of history but that is what it makes it so much more enjoyable than other historical novels that opt not to use a first person narrative. The book is not all fun and outrageous characters; Augustus is given to considerable introspection and philosophising, especially in the, darker, second half of the memoirs, ostensibly written much later than the first half. You have to keep your wits about you too, as the cast of characters and their complex interrelationship demand a constant awareness of who's who. But it's work which pays off well. These books have had less exposure than Colleen McCullough's recent series of Ancient Rome novels but you won't regret taking a chance on them. I read this a couple of months ago and am now in the middle of the follow-up, Tiberius, which is at least as good. He then goes backward in time with his Caesar and Antony novels, then forwards again to Nero's Heirs. I am really
looking forward to reading the rest of them and promise to report back on them all.
A novelized account of Augustus from the killing of Julius Caesar until Augustus's own death. The novel is based on the two books of the Augustus autobiography discovered in a Macedonian monastery in 1984, and revealing the life of this flawed, doubting, powerful man.