The Ides Of March Paperback – Nov 8 2013
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"Stand aside Gladiator, the real classics are coming!"
"Manfredi...shows Dan Brown how it should be done"
(Daily Express) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Valerio Massimo Manfredi is professor of classical archaeology at the Luigi Bocconi University in Milan. Further to academic publications, he has published numerous works of fiction, including the Alexander trilogy, which has been translated into thirty-four languages in fifty-five countries. His novel The Last Legion was released as a major motion picture. He has written and hosted documentaries on the ancient world and has written screenplays for cinema and television.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The place is Rome. Gaius Julius Caesar, dictator perpetuo, is finalizing his plans of war with Parthia. He eagerly awaits news from one of his most loyal men, Publius Sextus Baculus, a veteran centurion gathering information in the far north.
There are traitorous murmurs in the air. Caesar's chief aide Silius Salvidienus, more affected by those murmurs than his master, also seeks information, assisted by Caesar's physician and Marcus Brutus' house philosopher.
The place is north Italy and Publius Sextus receives crucial information from a paid informer. His task is to make sure this information reaches Rome in time, no knowing for sure how much time there is. He enlists 3 soldiers to help carry the words, each by a different route, 5 vital words that will save Rome - "The Eagle is in danger".
The roads are treacherous and more so are people - orders go out to stop the news reaching the city...
This is a retelling of Sakespeare's "Julius Caesar", made flesh and bone by brilliant writing, adding behind-the-scenes action and characters and sense of time.
I've never read a book quite like this one. Not just the plot but the style, the precision, the minimalism. The sense of urgency is overwhelming, it's present on every page, reinforced by the dates in the beginning of every chapter in the Roman fashion - VI days till the Ides, III days, etc.
And I loved the characters - Caesar, sick of Rome and it's politics, ready for one final military adventure; Marcus Antonius, one whose motives are as ambiguous as he pretends not to be; Cicero, cautious as always; Brutus, determined and scared; and Publius Sextus, wiling to face time itself to do his duty.
What makes Manfredi's Ides of March stand out is that he introduces Caesar's "intelligence agents." These are trusted legionaries, especially one, who serve Caesar as messengers, investigators, and bodyguards. They have heard rumors of the plot against his life, and now race through Italy in hopes of stopping Caesar's death.
Readers also catch glimpses of Brutus as he is torn between his desire to see Rome remain a Republic, and his hesitation at doing murder.
Cleopatra and Antony are also shown here as already familiar to each other, even while Caesar still lives.
Much of the story is a chase, as agents of the assassins attempt to stop the legionaires. The sense given by the geography and terrain of the rivers, cliffs, villas and tabernas, gives the tale a vaster scope than other stories set only in Rome.
While this is a fascinating story as told from its different point of view, lending a fresh look at familiar events, the character development is lacking. It is as if, since the characters are all so well-known, they are allowed to remain somewhat "stick-figures."
It would have been nice to see if the author could have provided any of these well-known persons with new perspectives.
The book is still recommended.
It seems to me that there are two main hurdles a writer must overcome if one is going to write a piece of fiction on the assassination of Julius Caesar. First, he or she must create a plot that is sufficiently interesting that the reader will stay absorbed in the story even though they know the ending. Second, the characters, both real and fictional, must be drawn well and with historical accuracy.
Valerio Massimo Manfredi's "The Ides of March" succeeds as far as plotting concerns. The story focuses mainly on Caesar's attempts to confirm that there is, in fact, a plot to take his life and creates a parallel story line that tracks the actions of those loyal to Caesar and those of the conspirators. The plot works well and actually maintained my interest all the way through. It was a well-thought out plot and it develops nicely.
Where "The Ides of March" fails, and fails badly in my opinion is in it character development. Although the characters (both real and fictional) seem to be drawn with great accuracy in a historical sense they virtually all come across as wooden. It is no small feat to make Julius Caesar and the likes of Marcus Junius Brutus or Marcus Antonius seem stilted and one-dimensional but, perhaps because something is lost in the translation, they lack the sort of spark that would make you feel vested in the characters.
Recommendation: I'd say this book is worth taking a look at if you have a plane ride or need some light beach reading. The plot is interesting enough to keep you reading through to the end and Manfredi has clearly taken the time to create what appears to be an accurate picture of life in the time of the Caesar. It isn't great literature but you probably won't toss it away before you finish it. Basically, about 3 stars for the plot and 2 stars for the characters.