Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Augustus - Allan Massie
I'd previously read Massie's take on Caligula, which was OK, but this is much better - a character, I feel, that Massie is naturally more comfortable with. The novel presents as two separate tranches of autobiography, one covering Octavian's triumph over Antony and Cleopatra, the other a more sweeping account of everything else. The free-form style of the second half compensates for the awkward structure and, being essentially about what comes after a forty-year benign dictatorship (a question more relevant today than when the book was written in 1985/6), is more about Tiberius than Augustus. Certainly, I am keen to read Tiberius, the next in the sequence. Another that caught my eye is Nero's Heirs.
Massie is a novelist in the classic tradition. In Augustus and Caligula he ventures into territory comprehensively staked out by Robert Graves a generation earlier. But, without in any way shaking the reader's faith in the historicity of his narrative, Massie manages to bring a fresh and distinct take to a relatively familiar story.