cover image Caesar


Allan Massie, Alan Massie. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $20 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0121-6

In this third in a projected quartet of historical novels set in ancient Rome, Massie (Tiberius) attempts to find new drama in the story of Julius Caesar's murder. The novel's narrator, a Roman general languishing in captivity among the Gauls, muses over the events that have brought down his career. He was once, it seems, Caesar's closest confidant-but became one of his chief betrayers. By casting his narrative in the form of a participant's testimonial, Massie opens a window onto the private triumph and tragedy that marked the final months of Caesar's life. Though the novel includes evocative, naturalistic descriptions (the account of the crossing of the Rubicon, for instance), the emphasis here is on character. In a series of rhetorical set pieces, the author represents the table talk of well-known personages. He follows previous novelists of Roman decadence in cataloging the sexual proclivities of the Roman worthies and explicitly echoes Shakespeare in describing the assassination and its aftermath. Ultimately, Massie's engaging work gives added zest to a familiar tale through its unique perspective. (Nov.)