Cleopatra and Antony

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Diana Preston’s book examines the dying gasps of the Roman Republic through the lives of four protagonists: Cleopatra, Antony, Julius Caesar and the future emperor, Octavian. She illuminates 1st century BC political complexities, from the dangerous power vacuum created by Caesar’s assassination; to the dynastic struggles of the Ptolemies (Cleopatra’s father murdered his daughter Berenike; Cleopatra poisoned her brother), and the incursions of war-like Parthians which threatened both Egypt and Rome.
I learnt much from this book. For example, I hadn’t known that Cleopatra was in Rome, as Caesar’s guest, at the time of his murder – and had been there for some time, together with their son, Caesarion.

The writing is informal and frequently borrows from fictional techniques: chapters ending on mini cliff-hangers, e.g. It was an ominous clearing of the decks; invention: e.g. a barber who was no doubt coaxing Caesar’s remaining strands of hair into the most becoming position; and distinctly slangy words like glitz.

Some may feel that this approach lacks academic rigour but it certainly makes for lively, accessible reading. I enjoyed it.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award

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Price
(UK) £18.99

ISBN
(UK) 9780385612456

Format
Hardback

Pages
398

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