Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Rubicon

For the past two weeks I've been reading this book nightly. The Rubicon is a hard book to categorise - although it is historical non fiction (has footnotes and all), Tom Holland tells the History of the Roman Republic in a compelling storytelling manner. The Rubicon (the first of Tom Hollands Historical books) can be summed up as 'Truth is stranger than fiction' or should i say 'Truth is more entertaining than fiction'.

In the first year of my undergrad degree, i did a year of 'Ancient civilisations' which focused on Rome and Greece. In all the books I've read on the subject of Rome, I think The Rubicon does an excellent job of telling the story of Rome - like a panoramic picture of its beginnings to the end - without too much (or overwhelming) detail to bog down the reader. This, i think, is the key to the success of this book - you don't have to be a scholar to comprehend and read this, and it isn't too clustered with details or differing academic opinions to leave you confused. Tom holland makes assumptions based on facts (lets you know he has) and gets back to the juicy details of the story.

Definitely this book though isn't a hero worship of Caesar or Augustus but gives a warts and all view of the political horizon of Rome, and of course (as he says in his preface) focuses beyond the typical 'main players' and shows the reasoning behind it all. My only fault is that there isn't a huge focus on the most epic moments (which almost feel anti-climatic) like Caesars murder or Antony and Cleopatra's suicides. He mentions them and moves on. However it should be noted that Tom Holland makes the point in the preface that this is a book about 'Rome and its people' and i think deliberately underplays the 'most known' parts so as not to swamp the message.

So to sum up, buy this book and read it! Even if history is not your cuppa, this is a exciting read! Can't wait to pick up his other two: Persian Fire and Millenium.


Anonymous said...

Sounds really good, Emily! I love history but am not naturally drawn to the Roman era. I admire a book that can make me 'fall in love' with the history.

- Corra

from the desk of a writer

Emily Cross said...

Corra - TH has written about persian era and also about the emergence of christianity, if its anything like Rubicon i'd highly recommend them!

thanks for comment :)

hifidel said...

Looks like a good read, Emily. Thanks for pointing this one out. I've been reading a rather tedious history (not because it's dry, but because it tries to be too cute), and would welcome something like this!


Laura Elliott said...

This sounds like a great book for my dad. He loves, loves, loves history. As a matter of fact non-fiction is really all my folks ever read. I'm really drawn to fiction, but this tempts me. Great review. Glad you enjoyed the book.