Dictatorial

26 05 2018

Dictator by Robert Harris

 

‘Laws are silent in times of war.’
Cicero

There was a time when Cicero held Caesar’s life in the palm of his hand. But now Caesar is the dominant figure and Cicero’s life is in ruins.

Exiled, separated from his wife and children, his possessions confiscated, his life constantly in danger, Cicero is tormented by the knowledge that he has sacrificed power for the sake of his principles.

His comeback requires wit, skill and courage – and for a brief and glorious period, the legendary orator is once more the supreme senator in Rome.

But politics is never static and no statesman, however cunning, can safeguard against the ambition and corruption of others.

Riveting and tumultuous, DICTATOR encompasses some of the most epic events in human history yet is also an intimate portrait of a brilliant, flawed, frequently fearful yet ultimately brave man – a hero for his time and for ours. This is an unforgettable tour de force from a master storyteller.

Yet again it’s all about the politics. It is all a bit up and down for Cicero in the most challenging of times but he nevertheless remains a compelling central character to the very end. A terrific finale to a wonderful trilogy.

 

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Cicero goes large

20 05 2018

Lustrum by Robert Harris

Rome, 63 BC. In a city on the brink of acquiring a vast empire, seven men are struggling for power. Cicero is consul, Caesar his ruthless young rival, Pompey the republic’s greatest general, Crassus its richest man, Cato a political fanatic, Catilina a psychopath, Clodius an ambitious playboy.

The stories of these real historical figures – their alliances and betrayals, their cruelties and seductions, their brilliance and their crimes – are all interleaved to form this epic novel. Its narrator is Tiro, a slave who serves as confidential secretary to the wily, humane, complex Cicero. He knows all his master’s secrets – a dangerous position to be in.

From the discovery of a child’s mutilated body, through judicial execution and a scandalous trial, to the brutal unleashing of the Roman mob, Lustrum is a study in the timeless enticements and horrors of power.

It’s all about the politics and the battle for power. The struggles between Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, with Cicero in the middle, is skilfully portrayed and the narrative is thoroughly gripping as Rome spirals into crisis.

It’s another corker from Harris.





Serious things happened on the way to the Forum

13 05 2018

 

When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history.

The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island’s corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium – supreme power in the state.

This is the starting-point of Robert Harris’s most accomplished novel to date. Compellingly written in Tiro’s voice, it takes us inside the violent, treacherous world of Roman politics, to describe how one man – clever, compassionate, devious, vulnerable – fought to reach the top.

Have recently re-read this and found it as compelling as the first time around. The portrayal of Cicero and all of his political allies and opponents is excellent and the Roman backdrop is impressively painted. Whilst there is much rich historical detail here the thing which makes it genuinely gripping is the political ebb and flow around Cicero. It’s all politics at the end of the day and it is almost impossible not to draw parallels with contemporary political life too.

Just outstanding and highly recommended.





No Ordinary Conference

30 12 2017

Munich by Robert Harris

 

 

September 1938. Hitler is determined to start a war. Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace. The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there. Munich.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Führer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own.

Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again.

When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Yet another gripping tale from Robert Harris. Must admit to my historical knowledge of this period being a little sketchy at best but Harris does an excellent job of providing a ton of period detail within  a compelling narrative which portrays the leading figures extremely convincingly and not unsympathetically in at least some cases. Great stuff.

four stars





Fearful

8 07 2017

The Fear Index by Robert Harris

 

 

Meet Alex Hoffmann: among the secretive inner circle of the ultra-rich, he is something of a legend.

Based in Geneva, he has developed a revolutionary system that has the power to manipulate financial markets. Generating billions of dollars, it is a system that thrives on panic – and feeds on fear.

And then, in the early hours of one morning, while he lies asleep, a sinister intruder breaches the elaborate security of his lakeside home.

So begins a waking nightmare of paranoia and violence as Hoffmann attempts – with increasing desperation – to discover who is trying to destroy him – before it’s too late …

It’s not one of his best but nevertheless Harris delivers a gripping and pacy thriller. Not really sure how accurate the portrayal of financial market operations is but felt realistic enough to me.





White smoke time

22 04 2017

Conclave by Robert Harris

 

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The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

It’s perhaps a surprising topic for a thriller but works extremely well. The insider accounts Harris has managed to source really do ensure this has a really credible setting.

Overall, it’s another cracking effort from an author who has a number of outstanding novels to his name. And there is a really very good twist at the end.

four stars





Russia yesterday

13 01 2017

Archangel by Robert Harris

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A number one bestseller from the award-winning master of the literary and historical thriller genre: Robert Harris. A gripping, thrilling explosion into Russia’s mysterious history…

When historian Fluke Kelso learns of the existence of a secret notebook belonging to Josef Stalin he is determined to track it down, whatever the consequences. From the violent political intrigue and decadence of modern Moscow he heads north – to the vast forests surrounding the White Sea port of Archangel, and a terrifying encounter with Russia’s unburied past.

 

Can’t go wrong with a Robert Harris – a terrific, fast-paced thriller with an academic at the centre of things uncovering hidden Russian history. Highly entertaining and thoroughly gripping, this really is a great yarn.

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