PART OF THE ACCLAIMED MASTERS OF ROME SERIES
Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neurophysicist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, then worked as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. She is the author of the record-breaking international bestseller The Thorn Birds as well as eleven other novels, and lives on Norfolk Island in the Pacific with her husband.
This big, complex novel detailing the beginnings of the downfall of the Roman Republic is a startling change of pace for McCullough ( The Thorn Birds, LJ 5/1/77). Gaius Marius, an upstart New Man from the Italian provinces, and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a patrician Roman brought up in the slums of the Subura, are both ambitious enough to want to become First Man in Rome, despite their social handicaps. The author deftly weaves politics, family rivalries, and battle scenes into a riveting story replete with fascinating details of everyday Roman life. The research is obviously painstaking; the author includes a large glossary of more than 100 pages as well as a pronunciation key for the Roman names. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/90. BOMC main selection.-- Marilyn Jordan, North Miami P.L., Fla.
If nothing else, this hefty tome, the first of a projected series, proves that McCullough ( The Thornbirds ) can write a serious historical novel that edifies while it entertains. Evoking with impeccably researched, meticulous detail the political and social fabric of Rome in the last days of the Republic, McCullough demonstrates a thoroughgoing understanding of an age in which birth and blood lines determine one's fate, and the auctoritas and dignitas of the Roman family mean more than any personal relationship. When the narrative opens in 110 B.C., this rigidly stratified social order has begun to erode. The protagonist, Gaius Marius, is the symbol of that gradual change. He is the embodiment of the novel's title, a genuine New Man who transcends his Italian origins and earns the ultimate political accolade--the consulship--for an unprecedented six terms. A brilliant military leader, Marius defeats the invading barbarian German tribes. Wily, shrewd and pragmatic, Marius is not above using bribery and chicanery to achieve political ends. Nor, indeed, are his fellow officials, whose sophisticated machinations are in odd juxtaposition with their penchant for jeering at one another, which leads to fisticuffs, brawls and even assassinations. As usual, McCullough tells a good story, describing political intrigue, social infighting and bloody battles with authoritative skill, interpolating domestic drama and even a soupcon of romance. The glossary alone makes fascinating reading; in it, for example, McCullough reasons that Roman men did not wear ``under-drawers.'' The narrative's measured pace, however, is further slowed by the characters' cumbersome names, which require concentrated attention. Those willing to hunker down for a stretch of close reading will be rewarded with a memorable picture of an age with many aspects that share characteristics ontemporaneous with our own. Maps and illustrations by the author. 300,000 first printing; BOMC main selection; author tour. (Oct.).
"The author's narrative flows as easily as Father tiber . . . A grandly meaty historical novel . . . rich with gracefully integrated research and thundering to the beat of marching roman legions" * Kirkus Reviews *