Author: Margaret George
Publisher: Berkley Books
Type of book: Rome, Emperor Nero, 40 ME-64? ME, Acte, creativity, torn, secrets, poisonings, marriages, tradition vs innovation, changes, life, love, mentoring, passion
Year it was published: 2017
The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.
Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar's imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman or child.
As a boy, Nero's royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son's inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.
While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina's machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero's determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become, an Emperor who became legendary.
With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy's ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival.
I have to say that the author is a master when it comes to working with and creating various characters because they all feel lifelike, ready to jump off of the pages into one's life. First is Nero, a young imaginative and impressionable boy who has been dealt a heavy fate of being born into the family of Caesars where poison and threats against life are common., The reader literally watches Nero grow up from an imaginative young boy to a young man who is torn between tradition and innovation as well as being torn between his good self and his bad self. Nero is extremely creative, generous, imaginative, and unafraid of spending money on bettering his image. There is also Nero's mother, an extremely ambitious woman who doesn't understand nor appreciates her son but who is is single-minded in getting Nero to be emperor by any means necessary be it murder, poisoning, etc. She is also extremely controlling and is not someone one would want to get on her bad side. Other characters include Nero's stepfather, Nero's numerous friends, mentors and teachers as well as his lovers and yes, each one is memorable and stands out in the book.
Unlimited power does not equal happiness
The story is in first person narrative from Nero's point of view, although a few times the story does get interrupted by Acte or Locusta. In terms of plot and characters as well as details and bringing the ancient Rome to life, the author has done an excellent job in re-creating how Nero might have been like thousands of years ago. While reading it, I did feel that the story was incomplete and that the book seems to suffer without a second part. I am also a bit grateful that the Romans are portrayed more sympathetically when it comes to different faiths. (One of the things they are well known for is tolerance, believe it or not.) I didn't feel comfortable with the way the Jewish religion was portrayed as being for snobs though (At least how Nero saw Judaism thanks to Poppaea, pg.444 of my copy)
(From the book)
Margaret George, who lives in Madison Wisconsin, comes from a Southern basckground and has traveled extensively. After reading numerous novels that viewed Henry VIII through the eyes of his enemies and victims, she became determined to let Henry speak for himself, and it took fifteen years, about three hundred books of background reading, three visits to England to see every extant building associated with Henry, and five handwritten drafts for her to answer the question: what was Henry really like?
She is also the author of two other highly acclaimed novels, Mary Queen of Soctland and the Isle and The Memoirs of Cleopatra
Previously I read and reviewed the author's The Autobiography of Henry VIII, which I've really loved. I'm really unsure on how to begin the review; but I will begin with what I loved about The Confessions of Young Nero; first of all I loved Nero's character which will make anyone who is a competitor or an artist understand the pain he is going through. I loved how torn he felt between what he called the good and the bad Nero, and I also loved how I felt as if I could relate to him. The psychology of Nero in the book is very fascinating and if the author's goal was to rehabilitate Nero, she has done an excellent job. Nero's life as well as the characters and the little details about that she placed in the book has really made the author a master of the craft. I also liked that she included Petronius in the book, and am curious if she was trying to send a message by the type of flowers that Nero's bride wears to her wedding (I know the narcissus and hyacinth myths, but what is the myth of roses?) Nero is not a saint in the book, but its obvious, or so it seems, that a lot of things he had supposedly done are exaggerated. There are two things I didn't like in the book, which I will mention: I did not appreciate that in the book Judaism is seen negatively thanks to Poppaea, and I also feel that Nero being split in two parts is not exactly good because the story feels very incomplete and without the second half, it lacks the tautness and excitement that Henry VIII had.
I won this at first reads goodreads giveaway
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)