Today is my stop in the Blog Tour with Berkley for the newly released The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George! (Available now at your local retailer!)
Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Berkley via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
Review: While I have a strong love of historical fiction, I often lean towards books set in World War II. But when I discovered that Margaret George was releasing a book about Ancient Rome, I was eager to get my hands on it. In middle school, I fell in love with Greek and Roman mythology, which is probably why I was drawn to visit Rome, Florence and Pisa in my traveling youth. Having done so, it was very easy to picture the scenery that Ms. George depicted in this story, particularly the Roman Forum. The ruins are glorious. Imagine what they looked like in Nero’s time!
Historical fiction often feels to me like walking a long, meandering path. You enjoy the scenery, get a bit lost in the surroundings, and spend a great deal of time in a state of contemplation. I found this all to be true in this case. The book is a lengthy one – as it should be – and though there is some drama, it is a not a quick, action-packed read. Its purpose, after all, is to familiarize us with the life of Nero, and as the author states in the acknowledgments, to perhaps shine a different light on a ruler who has often been demonized.
Truthfully, I couldn’t have told you much about anything on the topic of Nero prior to reading this, and I wasn’t aware history had painted him in such a negative light. However, Ms. George certainly depicted him differently, more as a man who loved art and country, who was born into a life that he did not choose, who accepted the power and responsibility that was thrust upon him, and tried to do his best with it, a man who was only human, wanting companionship, love and understanding, like the rest of us.
History can be very complicated and it’s easy to get lost in the details. It can also be rather dry. Ms. George does a brilliant job of making this part of history accessible and interesting. However, I sometimes had a hard time with the way Nero was depicted. It often felt as if he was coming off as weak when I don’t think that was the intent. After I read the acknowledgments, it occurred to me that perhaps in her attempt to remove the stain of previous representations, she over scrubbed a bit. It felt a bit like sitting next to someone who is wearing a lovely perfume, but entirely too much of it.
I’m glad to have read it because I feel like I learned a great deal, and chances are, I will pick up the next volume to complete the story. But it isn’t necessarily a book that I’ll be screaming from the rooftops about.