Dictator

Robert Harris. Knopf, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-307-95794-8
The closing volume of British bestseller Harris’s Ancient Rome trilogy, following Imperium and Conspirata, is as skillful as it is sobering. In 58 B.C.E., Cicero, the brilliant 49-year-old author and orator who was Rome’s undisputed leader only five years before, is punished with exile for his principled resistance to the triumvirate that now controls Rome. Making a reluctant peace with the trio—most notably Julius Caesar—allows him to return to Rome and his family, but even his political genius cannot return the republic to stability. The triumvirate collapses, civil war ensues, and Caesar seizes power, declaring himself dictator and god. Cicero lauds Caesar’s assassination as an act of liberation; though he is swept back into power afterward, he can neither restore the Roman government he views as “mankind’s noblest creation” nor save himself from betrayal. The perfect foil to the passionate and sometimes paradoxical protagonist, Cicero’s quietly capable secretary Tiro (a slave Cicero frees in one of the book’s most poignant scenes) remains an appealing narrator, offering readers a shrewd and stable perspective on the tumult Cicero embraces. With its complex historical context and searing scenes of violence, Dictator is not easy reading. Yet its gripping dramas and powerful themes—the fragility of democracy and the fallibility of human beings among them—richly illuminate the conflicts of its era and our own. 100,000-copy first printing. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/2015
Release date: 01/12/2016
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-399-56785-8
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-307-94813-7
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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