The Door in the Wall

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In the foreground of this novel, Marcus Caelius Rufus commands an outpost in Italy while he tries to pick the winner of the struggle between Pompey Magnus and Julius Caesar. Flashbacks recall the political and judicial action of the other two books in the series, including a fuller telling of Jaro’s version of what happened when Clodius disrupted the rites of the Bona Dea. Caesar appears only the reminiscences of Caelius.

While Clodia’s husband the consul dies, an amoral Caesar plots how he can be assigned to a proconsulate in Gaul where he will loot the barbarians in order to provide the money he needs to continue bribing venal politicians and subsidizing street gangs to intimidate the honest minority.

Caesar shamelessly uses people to achieve his ends, and he himself was one of the people he uses. This kind of observation gives subtlety to a characterization which otherwise emphasizes Caesar’s cold villainy. Although Jaro’s portrayal of Julius might be overly harsh, it serves as a corrective to the legions of historical novels that deify him. Jaro definitely comes to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

 

 

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

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