A sweeping epic of ancient Rome from the #1 bestselling author of The Thorn Birds
In this breathtaking follow-up to The October Horse, Colleen McCullough turns her attention to the legendary romance of Antony and Cleopatra, and in this timeless tale of love, politics, and power, proves once again that she is the best historical novelist of our time.
Caesar is dead, and Rome is, again, divided. Lepidus has retreated to Africa, while Antony rules the opulent East, and Octavian claims the West, the heart of Rome, as his domain. Though this tense truce holds civil war at bay, Rome seems ripe for an emperor -- a true Julian heir to lay claim to Caesar's legacy. With the bearing of a hero, and the riches of the East at his disposal, Antony seems poised to take the prize. Like a true warrior-king, he is a seasoned general whose lust for power burns alongside a passion for women, feasts, and Chian wine. His rival, Octavian, seems a less convincing candidate: the slight, golden-haired boy is as controlled as Antony is indulgent and as cool-headed and clear-eyed as Antony is impulsive. Indeed, the two are well matched only in ambition.
And though politics and war are decidedly the provinces of men in ancient Rome, women are adept at using their wits and charms to gain influence outside their traditional sphere. Cleopatra, the ruthless, golden-eyed queen, welcomes Antony to her court and her bed but keeps her heart well guarded. A ruler first and a woman second, Cleopatra has but one desire: to place her child on his father, Julius Caesar's, vacant throne. Octavian, too, has a strong woman by his side: his exquisite wife, raven-haired Livia Drusilla, who learns to wield quiet power to help her husband in his quest for ascendancy. As the plot races toward its inevitable conclusion -- with battles on land and sea -- conspiracy and murder, love and politics become irrevocably entwined.
McCullough's knowledge of Roman history is detailed and extensive. Her masterful and meticulously researched narrative is filled with a cast of historical characters whose motives, passions, flaws, and insecurities are vividly imagined and expertly drawn. The grandeur of ancient Rome comes to life as a timeless human drama plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the Republic's final days.
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The only reason I gave this book 2 stars instead of 1 is because the last third was fairly interesting.The first third of this book could be done without! Goodness what a lot of wordy dribble - hard to follow - the "building" of characters never occurs, as such, there was no bye-in to feel any emotion as the story progressed.The only other McCullough book I have read is "The Thorn Birds", which is a master-piece. I don't know if I will try any more of her work after ready Antony and Cleopatra. I wanted to feel emotion when characters died off but the whole story was presented in such a bland manner, I think a high school history book would be more engaging.Don't waste your time or money!more
Although I am usually intrigued by historical fiction, as it can make some dry history a bit more interesting by providing some colorful characters, I can't say that about this book. It seemed quite long and I felt, in need of editing. McCullough can usually be counted on to be accurate in her historical facts, but the book seemed too long. If the reader is going to lose interest, the story will never be told, no matter how factual it is. Cleopatra was interesting but Antony seemed rather blah and I was not drawn to either of them to find out what drew them to each other. I was expecting more of a love story but while there was a great deal of information, regarding military and ploitical facts that drove Cleopatra and Anthony to behave as they did, I didn't notice much that indicated a great love between them.more
Another Roman historical novel, but this one seems a bit tired – there doesn’t seem to be the same creative flair in the fiction side of the equation. It seems more like a recitation of the history, with the fictional characters made up simply to fill the gaps. The earlier novels in the Roman series were more deft. Read March 2008more
I have enjoyed McCullogh's other novels set in ancient Rome, but this one was a disappointment. I was never drawn to either Anthony or Cleopatra. I stopped reading about one-third of the way through.more
Wonderful stuff, a return to form after the slight dip I perceived in October Horse (though that may have been false expectations due to the long gap since Caesar). The author is clearly pro-Octavian and I share her view that Octavian's triumph was by far the better outcome for the Roman Empire at that point, in terms of bringing about peace after decades of civil war. Caesarion emerges as a strong character here and his death at Octavian's hands is poignant and macabrely logical. Antonius comes off poorly here and is only superficially the hero of romantic legend, while Cleopatra's ambitions for Egypt are as great as Octavian's for Rome. Great stuff.more
this was recommended as a book to learn about Egypt before my trip there. Most of the book was about Antony. Never finished it. Might go back to it when I'm more interested in learing about Cleopatra. She was very powerful, especially for the time period.more
Just started, but very well written. I picked it up at Magrudy's in Abu Dhabi the other day and it's migrated to the top of my stack of fiction.more
Even though I know how it ends, I was pretty much captivated by the fictional account of the battle for dominance between Octavian and Antony. It reads much more like a thriller than the earlier novels in the series. The tone is very much changed and most of the novel was of very high quality. The end, however, seemed rushed by comparison. Normally, detail in these novels is exhaustive and the summary that makes up the conclusion seemed tacked on as a comparison.I loved McCullough’s idea of what happened to Antony to make him so subservient and un-Roman. He who seemed to embody and empower Rome became enthralled by Cleopatra. I still don’t really get that, but I inferred it was because at heart Antony was lazy. He liked to go along with a grand plan, but not be the architect or driving force of it. I think his personality while craving glory, needed dominance. He wanted the praise, not the responsibility and fundamentally he’s portrayed as a weak man. It’s plausible.Through many movies and other depictions of Cleopatra, we’ve come to expect a great beauty and conniving sexpot. The latter she may be, but the former she certainly was not, so it was nice to find some accuracy. Her hold over Antony was complete though and I didn’t understand her appeal. McCullough just didn’t make her attractive to me. She seemed shrewish, unlearned and overbearing to me. Definitely unattractive. At the end I felt sympathy for Caesarion though. What a cross to bear. My only exposure to Octavian and Livia has been through Graves’s [I, Claudius] and I looked forward to hearing someone’s take on their relationship and exactly what drew them together. It seems there is true love on Octavian’s part, but I’m still not sure what Livia’s motivations are. Either she’s a very shrewd judge of character, a psychic or she is ok with very long odds. When she took up with Octavian, there was no real evidence for his eventual success. It was a huge gamble, especially when she married him in the strict form, severely limiting her rights and freedom and I still don’t know what to make of it. Who knows, maybe she does love him. I wonder if McCullough will continue the series even though she’ll be trodding on Graves.Battles are as usual, well documented, but politics are less focused on than in past years. We get virtually no narratives dealing with any senators or other politicos involved in the process either for or against Octavian. This made for a novel of more limited scope and therefore it moved a bit faster and didn’t stray to other plots or developments. All in all I thought it was pretty decent.more
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