Caesar's Women - Colleen McCullough (1996)

Caesar's Women is a meticulously researched historical novel of Republican Rome - although empire is just barely visible in the distance. Spanning a decade or so in the 7th century B.C., the action concerns Gaius Julius Caesar's political manoeuvrings in the Roman Senate. While that may not sound all that interesting out the gate, it is, in fact, fascinating.

The political world of Roman politics, as interpreted by McCullough, is cut-throat, violent and packed with enough special interests and personal vendettas that one cannot help but think "the more things change the more they stay the same." Written over a decade ago about events over two millennia ago, it almost seems like one could simply update the names, drop chunks of it into a newspaper or blog today and it wouldn't seem at all out of place.

McCullough writes very well and engagingly. The characters are vivid and inhabit a Rome which itself seems alive and vibrant. The research is in-depth and thorough, but not obtrusive; a glossary is provided for the various Latin words and terms which are used, but one needn't refer to it unless one is interested in the intricacies of, for instance, the Roman college of augurs or the Pontifex Maximus. The book is a long one, running nearly a thousand pages (although that includes historical notes and glossary), but it doesn't feel long since the action moves along at a good clip.

The book is fourth in a series of seven which chronicles the late Roman Republic.

Overall Grade: B+ (A- for those interested in Roman history)

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