Lustrum

Robert Harris

Lustrum

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, and 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. 4.8 out of 5 based on 15 reviews
Lustrum

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre Historical Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 464
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication October 2009
ISBN 978-0091801007
Publisher Hutchinson
 

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, and 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.

Reviews

The Daily Express

Leo McKinstry

The book builds magnificently towards a dramatic climax, as Cicero’s enemies encircle him. Harris is excellent on conjuring up the darkening atmosphere of Rome at this time, with plotters lurking in the streets and the mob whipped up to a fury by cynical populist leaders.

16/10/2009

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The Guardian

Charlotte Higgins

The genius of Lustrum (the title is the Latin word meaning an expiatory sacrifice offered every five years) is that Harris has created an entirely watertight, consistent world with an acceptable level of antique colour... He has also adhered closely to the facts of this most exciting of periods... But the real triumph here is that, on this bedrock of historical veracity, Harris has built a story that is really about modern politics.

17/10/2009

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The Spectator

Tom Holland

What grips most about Lustrum is the seriousness with which the political issues at stake are taken, and the vividness of the characterisation: both of which, in large part, reflect the closeness of Harris’s reading of his hero’s speeches and correspondence. The hilarious portrait of Pompey owes everthing to the scabrousness of Cicero’s own pen... [A] thrilling and thought-provoking novel

07/10/2009

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Standpoint

Allan Massie

This is a magnificent novel, better than Robert Graves's Claudius novels, better (I reluctantly admit) than the six books of my own Imperial sequence.

01/10/2009

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The Daily Telegraph

Jane Shilling

Lustrum wears its historical research lightly, and its handsome, craftsmanlike prose, well acidulated with Tiro’s asides, perfectly conveys the mingled horror and excitement of Roman politics.

16/10/2009

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The Literary Review

Tim Martin

Lustrum is ultimately a fine achievement: a hefty, politically serious thriller that effortlessly reanimates the dusty quarrels of Roman government while casting ironic and instructive sidelights on those of our own.

01/10/2009

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The Mail on Sunday

Boris Johnson

I read this novel with the same amazement I remember when in 1994 we went to see Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. All my childhood I had fantasised about dinosaurs, and what it might be like actually to see them. Thanks to the wizardry of Spielberg, there they were. That is the trick Robert Harris has performed with republican Rome... I would take off my hat to Haris, if I hadn't already dashed it to the ground in jealous awe.

18/10/2009

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The Times

Bettany Hughes

...it conjures a trick often missed by historical novels: flavoursome facts give a sense not just of a place and time but of developing lives. Harris remembers that we all exist in our own past and in visions of our future as well as in the present. Lustrum’s characters look forward to a time when bridges to the Tiber’s island will be built, back to a day before the Republic started to rot. It is this concertinaing of history into a series of cogent, life-changing memories, that gives Lustrum its concentrated excellence.

16/10/2009

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The Sunday Times

Nick Rennison

Lustrum needs no supposed relevance to the present to support its evocation of the past. It stands on its own merits as a thoroughly engaging historical novel. Republican Rome, with all its grandeur and corruption, has rarely been made as vivid as it appears in Harris’s book. The allure of power and the perils that attend it have seldom been so brilliantly anatomised in a thriller.

04/10/2009

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Times Literary Supplement

Peter Stothard

Harris writes in his introduction that, wherever the demands of fiction and fact have clashed, he has “unhesitatingly plumped for the former”. Although the main events are more reliably recorded than the reader of historical novels may expect, there is high fictional skill on display throughout, most powerfully in Harris’s pacing of the narrative, most alluringly in the highlights and grace notes that he introduces from the politics that we have all witnessed, at different degrees of proximity, over the past decade.

30/09/2009

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The Observer

Dominic Sandbrook

For all its political insights ... it is as a pure thriller that Lustrum stands or falls. In that respect, it succeeds splendidly. It may not be the best novel written about ancient Rome – I still prefer Gore Vidal and Allan Massie – but it is a damn good one: wry, clever, thoughtful, with a terrific sense of timing and eye for character.

11/10/2009

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The Sunday Telegraph

Harry Mount

He gets all the juicy toga saga stuff in... He also squeezes in a lot of quite complicated history... But, thank God, Harris never goes in for all that 'Yonda is da Castel of mah faddah dey call da Dook’ olden-daysese, so beloved of Hollywood. His characters talk much like you, me or Peter Mandelson, with the odd nicely chosen Latin term

04/10/2009

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The Economist

The Economist

...another excellent read... The final years of the republic before Octavian emerged as the Emperor Augustus are fascinating, and Mr Harris provides a vivid and convincing picture of Cicero and his many formidable contemporaries.

15/10/2009

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The Independent on Sunday

Matthew Bell

One of Harris's great strengths is the thoroughness of his research and his absolute mastery of complex historical periods... Rusty classicists will thrill to have their memories refreshed while I can't think of a better introduction for those unfamiliar with the period. If I were spearheading a campaign to bring classics back into schools, a national air-drop of Harris's Roman novels would be a start.

18/10/2009

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The Independent

Jonathan Beckman

For the most part, the unsubtle characterisation does not interfere with the hectic pace of the story... But Cicero needs to be a more complex figure... Nonetheless, Lustrum offers great insight into the psychology of political calculation.

09/10/2009

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