The Confessions of Young Nero

The Confessions of Young Nero

Book - 2017
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A tale inspired by the rise of the Emperor Nero follows the ascension of a youth to the head of Julius Caesar's imperial dynasty, where he navigates corruption and his mother's ruthless ambitions to pursue his ideals in the arts and athletics.
Publisher: New York, NY : Berkley Books, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780451473387
0451473388
Branch Call Number: F GEORGE
Characteristics: 514 pages : maps, genealogical table ; 23 cm

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tjdickey
Jul 17, 2017

A very readable account, despite the looming background - Nero is of course born into a family steeped in murder (Caligula tries to drown the infant boy as a joke in the opening pages), incest (even Oedipal obsessions), the corruption of absolute power (Nero knows the intoxicating cries of the mob), and creeping madness in the multiple personalities he freely acknowledges. George's overall intent is to rehabilitate this fascinating figure somewhat, showing the deeply-felt artistic side of his personality more than the stereotype of the mad ruler, though in the context of a ruling family so steeped in its own blood and that of its people, the work is cut out for her.

m
morganameridius
May 08, 2017

I discovered Margaret George’s book Mary, Called Magdalene in high school and continued my love of her books after college with The Memoirs of Cleopatra and Helen of Troy. I loved the way she was able to bring the Ancient World to life while making the characters and their lives feel immediate and knowable. You could recognize common struggles in their extraordinary lives. So I was extremely excited when she announced a new book on the Roman Emperor Nero. While it did not become a new favorite of mine, I enjoyed the panache that George brought to yet another celebrated & controversial historical figure.

Even though the attention to detail is immense, Margaret George’s writing style is compulsively readable and keeps you turning the pages. I would get lost in the scenery of the Roman countryside, the smells of the food, the luxury of the palaces. It was all so easy to see in my mind’s eye. I struggled with the narrative style, though, the looking backward aspect. In theory it takes away some of the narrative urgency because you know that this character survives whatever tribulations are mentioned up until the point he/she is telling the story. In this case, that didn’t bother me or alleviate the tension.

For me, it was the amount of recall and the mature voice given to a child that was hard to believe. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a 4 year old to remember as much detail as Nero did and it made it difficult to remember how old he was at certain parts of the story, or indeed what year it was. So that distracted me. I also felt some distance from the characters themselves but overall I enjoyed learning about a historical figure I didn’t know much about previously. I also really appreciate the lengths George has gone to carefully reconstruct this newer image of Nero, to look beyond the sensationalized for the human underneath. She gives him motives and fears as well as passions that seem to directly correlate to choices he makes in the future, and it paints a fuller picture of a controversial man. I’ll look forward to the conclusion in part 2!

If you enjoy Roman history or even historical fiction in general, this book is worth giving a try. The details overwhelm at times but help paint this amazing image of a long-past world and a very interesting historical figure.

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