Advance Galley Reviews
Though I am a huge, huge fan of historical books, I was lost with this one. I'm sorry!
Though this is a long book and only the first part of a duology, I found it to be a compelling read. Ancient Rome has long been one of my favorite eras and books focusing on Nero are not common. When he does appear, it is in the typical crazed and evil emperor role that history remembers him by. It was interesting to read a different take on the boy that would become the man and would be placed on "Rome's Worst Emperor " list by most historians. It is obvious the author did a lot of research. Like her other books, the attention to detail was welcome. I will be sure to read the second part when it comes out, because I want to see how Nero the man is dealt with.
I'm a fan of Margaret George and enjoyed most of her other novels. _Confessions_ is, like her other work, a balance of history and good storytelling, providing the reader the opportunity to read what history may have lost or in Nero's case, skewed towards the negative because those who first wrote his history had reason to make less of the Julian-Claudian rulers.
George always paints a wonderfully detailed world and creates believable, sympathetic characters -- even those with a more 'villainous' take on the world. Her ability with using historical texts and sources shows in the grounding of the novel in historical events including the early Christians rebellion against Judaism, and Boudicca's rebellion in Britain.
While I enjoyed the novel, it isn't my favorite. The early going, while great for fans of Graves _I, Claudius_ because we get the tale end of that period, is a bit uneven narratively. We see episodes that will later explain some of Nero's choices, but it is sporadic and jumps a bit without a clear sense of Nero's age or how much time has passed. And there were moments throughout that made me feel like George had sanitized him a bit much.
While flawed, I recommend the novel to fans of George, those who enjoy historical novels well steeped in the research, and those who want those historical gaps filled by great storytelling.
If you are fan of historical fiction, this one you must read. Margaret George is still the queen of this genre. I have always loved stories based in Rome and this one was no exception. The only thing I had trouble with was following who was related to who, so I decided to not care about the detailed family tree and I enjoyed the story so much more. This is one book you will want to read even if you are not currently a fan, you will be after you read this book.
Warning: This is part one of a two-volume story. I'm sorry I didn't know that before I reached the end of the book, and turned the page only to find the Afterword - "Wait, what?" I then saw that the unfinished business would be covered in a later volume. Truly, I felt privileged to advance read a book by Margaret George, who is one of my favorite historical novelists. I didn't know much about Emperor Nero, only the notorious "fiddling while Rome burned" comment, which, according to Ms. George was probably about as inaccurate as the "let them eat cake" remark ascribed to Marie Antoinette. I'm sure the Romans would be astounded to know that modern civilization would regard them as barbarians, since the Roman citizen was the highest form of life on the planet, to hear them tell it. However, barbarians they were, with their cruel spectator sports and casual poisonings of close relatives. I was surprised, however, that the most cringe-worthy descriptions of brutality came not from the noble citizens who appeared on these pages, but by Britain's Boudicaa. I had already seen a documentary on this warrior queen's righteous indignation and subsequent (initial) defeat of the Romans, but was not apprised of the gorier details of her army's attacks until reading this book. Another noteworthy, and more benign contemporary historical figure mentioned in the book was Jesus Christ, although Nero never had the pleasure of his acquaintance. Can't wait for volume II!
The email said I had until March to review this book. But I am being told I cannot open the file and read it because access to it has expired. I was really looking forward to reading this book and am very disappointed that this happened. I hope it was an error and not something that will keep happening. The readers should have access to the book until the date they are given to review the book by.
The research in this book is amazing. Margaret George has given us another well researched beautifully written book. I enjoyed this immensely. Seeing the innocence of Nero turn into the murderous, insecure tyrant we know from history is fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed getting more background on those around Nero and Nero himself. I can't wait until the second volume is released.
Thank you First to Read for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book was so interesting and fascinating! Margaret George must have spent an immense time researching young Nero's life from boyhood to the burning of Rome and all the people who were around him during that time. His mother, tutors, step fathers, step siblings, athletes: all were of influence to young Nero's perceptions, thoughts, ideas and actions.
This book is so well written that every time I opened the book to read, I was transported back in time to Ancient Rome. She vividly describes Rome, palace life, gladiatorial games and contests and races. It was fascinating to see Nero, who lived with his aunt as a young boy then is manipulated by his mother to become emperor.
Margaret portrays Nero as a boy who wants to have friends, a student, a philosopher, an artist, a musician, an athlete. I did look up Nero on the computer, having forgotten the history and saw him as a sex addict, cruel and murderous. I suppose things he had to do in order to hold on to his reign of power.
I would give this historical fiction 5 starts! I am a huge fan of historical fiction and mainly stick to Kings and Queens of England, but this was a great treat! I look forward to reading the second part of Nero, the Nero after Rome burned to the ground!
I have read all of Margaret George's novels and as always was ecstatic about this one. The Confessions of young Nero was outstanding in its portray of a young idealistic boy becomes a hard handed ruler and how he changed so much. George's historical fiction is always thought provoking, captivating, exciting, and chalked full of the vast research she does on her subjects. The characters and places not only come alive for the reader but are in most cases presented in far more human terms than throughout historical records. As a reader you feel as though you are connected to the time and place and not just the people. Nero's pride and fears and love and joy are brought out in not only his actions but reactions to the many constant changes around him. To be able to take someone portrayed throughout time as so evil and flawed and present him I a way as to feel for him and with him is George's gift of genius. The perspectives of the people around Nero as well as his own help make the story more full and give an understanding of his very questionable situations and choices as a ruler and a man under pressures.most could never understand. Seriously if he was not crazy he should have been. The women in his life from Agrippina his mother and Locust to his wives to Acte who truly loved him where constant influence and dangers and he had to rule the Roman Empire and deal with the politics of the Senate. I enjoyed the early portrayal of him as a lover and not a warrior loving athletics, and the common people, poetry and music and then dealing with the struggles with politics, religion, backstabbing, and murder as a man and an Emperior. He wanted change that others were not ready for. He wanted art and more for the coo on people, slaves and freedmen but betrayal and influences slowly changed him.
George does an outstanding job showing Nero's change from his good intentions to a heavy handed , murderous ruler. She tells a story that is alive, full and real for the reader. As this is a two part book series I am very excited for the next book. If you are familiar with the history of Nero and his reign I strongly recommend this novel, but if you are not I still recommend it just be aware it sheds light of some of the more horrible aspects of history, incest, murder, and other Roman activities of the time. It is a wonderful start to learn of the time.
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George was a detailed, historical fiction based on the early life of Emperor Nero. Having not researched this time period besides what I have learned in school, this novel was an in-depth interpretation of Nero's life from early childhood to the first few year of his rule over the Roman Empire. In the afterword, George says that this will continue in a second installment from where she left off and I can't wait to continue the story. Highly recommend.
As a student of Latin, Greek and Ancient History, and as a (former) teacher of English grammar and literature, I could not have been more impressed or delighted with what Margaret George has produced. Much like what Anne Rice did with her two volumes of the "Christ the Lord" series, Ms. George takes "what we know" and fills in "what might have been" in terms of motivations, background and unrecorded events. Her historical research is top notch and her use of language is flawless. Reading this book was a pure delight; in fact, I re-read some sections simply because the writing itself was so beautiful.
I've always enjoyed reading historical fiction, and the ancient Roman world is a particular favorite of mine. Thus it was that I immediately dove into this novel depicting the life of Nero - about whom I knew less than many other famous Romans, barring what I read in Quo Vadis, Claudius the God, and Suetonius' Twelve Caesars - from his birth through the burning of Rome. I gobbled up the first 350 pages or so, then at around page 378, stalled for a couple of weeks. It might have been that the relatively simplistic dialogue had gotten to me, or the way Nero tells about things that occurred without actually describing the scenes (the novel is written in first person). I suspect, though, that Nero's self-absorption had become tiresome and I just needed some time away from him, because, when I got back to it, I finished it quickly.
I think it might have been better if the novel had been written in the third person so there would be more balanced viewpoints, which would have also precluded the necessity of occasionally inserting short chapters told from the viewpoint of a couple of other characters, apparently to add information that Nero could not have known, a device which was a bit disruptive to the flow. All in all, though, it was a very well-researched, well-written, and sympathetic look at a controversial figure who is usually portrayed as the debauched emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned," and I look forward to reading Part 2.
This is quite an epic tale that would transform well into a mini-series. The author paints such a vivid picture of Nero's life from boyhood to emperor. I appreciated the insights at the end from the author telling how her book differs from most other depictions of Nero's life.
This book makes me thankful not to have been born into a royal family of any sort. The amount of scheming, blackballing, and murder going on is enough to drive anyone mad.
The story was never boring, but was an easy read even for 500+pages. I am definitely interested in reading the next book in this saga.
Before reading this book I didn't know much about Nero or his reign over Rome. This was an excellent introduction. Margaret George's book is fascinating and well researched. It presents Nero as a sympathetic character, contrary to what many historians might say about him. The book starts with Nero as a young child and ends nine years into his reign. This is the first of two books, and I can't wait for the second one.
I am such a fan of the amazingly talented Margaret George. The amount of research rhat goes into her books is stunning and it is such a pleasure to benefit from all of it. The life of Nero was fascinating and I highly recommend this book.
I enjoy reading historical fiction from the ancient Roman and Greek time periods. I almost gave up at the beginning of this book because the story seemed to jump from time to time. Also, the first person narration didn't seem believable at the beginning when Nero was very young. But I kept going and the story picked up, and I understand the story is to be continued in a second volume which I look forward to reading. This story shows that we learn what we live; Nero's mother would kill to advance her plans and the career of Nero. So when Nero became emperor, he also killed those who didn't agree with him or submit to his plans. It was also amazing to me how often laws were changed just to accommodate the wishes of an emperor. Thank you to First To Read for the ARC of this book.
I've read and enjoyed several other books by Margaret George, but this one couldn't capture my attention. I almost wished it started later in Nero's life as there were so many jumps as he moved between different members of his family in his earlier years and I started to lose interest. It began to feel like work to get to know the ever-changing cast of characters. Maybe I will pick it up again someday. This is also a time period in history that I am very unfamiliar with, so that may have added to my loss of interest.
Prior to reading Margaret George's "Confessions of a Young Nero" all I knew about Nero was that he fiddled while Rome burned. Ms George has provided a much more complete and sympathetic portrait of Nero and his times in this fictional biographical novel. For Nero, being an heir in the Julio-Claudian line was literally life threatening. If his mother, Agrippina, was the original tiger mom then I think you'll find evidence in this fascinating read that Nero was the "proto-Renaissance Man." Nero was at turns Machiavellian and cultured. His devotion to the Greek ideal (while being Roman) ,his ascension to the Ceasarean throne as a teenager and the ferocious Roman culture helps to explain (but not excuse) his scandalous behavior. Ms. George tells Nero's story without moral judgment , leaving the reader to decide for themselves whether Nero was a a libertine or a victim of circumstance. As with most situations context is important and Ms George provides plenty of it. I've read several of Ms George's books and she never disappoints. I'm excited to see this is the first installment of a planned duo of books on Nero. I was given this book In The Penguin First to Read program.
I can't even imagine the amount of research that goes into Margaret George's books! To take all that history and make it approachable and interesting is just amazing to me. I love historical fiction but I haven't read anything about Nero before now. I look forward to the next book.
Margaret George’s new novel starts with Nero as a young child. His father is dead and his mother is banished. He is living with his aunt and even at a young age learns how politics are done in Rome – mainly through deception and murder.
When his mother’s banishment ends, he goes to live with her. He watches her scheme and murder her way into power and elevate him to the ultimate position – emperor. Alas, his mother does not realize that Nero has learned the ways of Rome too well. Refreshingly, this book shows there is more to Nero.
Usually Nero is depicted as a sex fiend and murderer who fiddled while Rome burned. This book does not. It shows that Nero was a thoughtful ruler looking after the common people. He had an artistic side that composed poetry and played the cithara. He designed and executed ambitious building projects. He enjoyed physical pursuits such as wrestling and chariot racing.
Now he did have a side that murdered his enemies, but you know the saying “When in Rome…”. The author portrays Nero as someone who didn’t enjoy murdering people, but understood that it was sometimes necessary to hold on to his position.
I enjoyed the book and look forward to the next part. Yes, there is a second part, and the author ends this one rather abruptly.
Almost a decade ago, I plowed through all of Margaret George's work to date and was immensely pleased by the fact someone could so deftly recreate long ago time periods. When this book came available, I jumped a the chance to experience Roman history in George's words and to see if my pleasure of her writing stood the test of time... and it did, mostly. Nero, like many of these ancient Roman Emperors, is mostly known through rumor and the writing of his enemies. This book follows most of the first part of his life, beginning as a young boy and going through his initial reaction to the burning of Rome. In this rendition, he is not completely a bad person but someone dealing with vindictive, suspicious and power-hungry family members. Murder of close family becomes such a regular aspect of his life that it eventually becomes expected. I thought the atmosphere of Roman civilizations was well developed in this book and I loved the history that she included. Anyone familiar with Roman Emperors knows the amount of scandal involved and while it is included, I felt it mostly skimmed over so the lurid details weren't really included. I found the writing somewhat simplistic and Nero's introspection grew tiresome at times, however, I enjoyed this detailed look into a possibly misunderstood ancient leader. The book ends abruptly but George states in her afterward that sequel may be in the works. If that is indeed the case, I will definitely be picking it up. I received this book from Penguin's First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.
Although the book is very long, it presents only part of Nero's life; the rest will be presented in the next volume. The author has obviously done her homework; there is plenty of interesting detail about life in ancient Rome. However she is not entirely successful in redeeming his bad reputation. An interest in music and poetry does not cancel out matricide.
I will admit I knew the name Nero enough to recognize him as a Roman Emperor. What I couldn't recall was if he was one of the good ones. I didn't recognize him as being as debauched as Caligula, but perhaps my History Channel surfing had failed me. Because of this, a work of historical fiction focused on his early years was too tempting to let pass by.
Nero is neither hero nor monster in this book. He's rather...ordinary in extraordinary circumstances. He's a child seeking love and approval. He's a rebellious teenager. He's a young man with great power and resources who soon learns that trust is dangerous and survival is a matter of family politics. That his story is told - mostly - from his viewpoint helps to humanize him further and takes him out of the mythic realm and into that of the human condition.
Although I realize this book is a work of fiction, the author's note at the end of this first half of the duology, does give me faith that the author did her homework. That her depiction of Nero is perhaps less critical of the young Emperor than the historians of antiquity is something she addresses herself and explains in a reasonable enough fashion.
It should be noted this book was an advanced readers copy provided by Penguin's First to Read program, but the review is an honest one. I wouldn't recommend the book to my sister, the fledgling historian, if I didn't think it was a worthy read.
I really enjoy Roman history and although overall I liked this book, it was just so incredibly long. It was written well, but sometimes it just felt like there was too much detail that didn't really add anything to the story. The detail that was needed though, was so great and I could close my eyes and feel like I was transported back to those days in Rome. Overall, if you have some interest in Ancient Rome, this is a good read. Just be prepared to invest some time.
I managed 200 pages of this book and then gave up. At that point I wasn't even half way through it and Nero had just become emperor. Then I learned that this is only part one of Nero's story and I knew that I had made the right decision. I would prefer to read a history book about Nero rather than this mix of fact and imagined conversations and feelings. I also thought that the author made a poor decision to have this story told in the first person by Nero (initially as a 4 year old) rather than in the third person. Even a preternaturally intelligent child with total recall could not possibly have remembered the conversations, or understood the political machinations, that he recounted in this book. This just wasn't for me.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
I was looking forward to reading this because Ancient Rome is an era that I'm not terribly familiar with. I'm sorry to say that I found "The Confessions of Young Nero" tough going. The dialogue felt unnatural, and the story just kind of plodded along wit too many extraneous details. I kept reading to the end, though, and the story did pick up in the last 100 pages or so. I think I would have enjoyed it more had it not been narrated in the first person, especially since there were a few chapters narrated by other characters which I found distracting.
All that considered, it was interesting to get a different perspective on Nero; I just wish it had been presented better.
I've read two other of her books and loved them. I read about Nero and Ms George shows him in a nicer light than other historians show him. Sounds as if he was bright. Gifted, and maybe an it crazy. I enjoyed it. I skipped over a lot of the construction of buildings and monuments. Just filler to me.
I truly enjoyed this book. I did not know much about Nero, but found him to be intelligent. The stuff about him and his mother was creepy beyond belief, but those were the times. I thought that the last 120 pages really drug out and seemed disconnected from the depth and overall story from the rest of the book.
I could not get into this book. The writing was really bland and there wasn't anything that really grabbed me or compelled me to keep reading in the first 10 chapters.
I am disappointed because I love historical fiction and was looking forward to a novel not set in Tudor England or World War I/II.
Unfortunately it's one to skip, though I will keep looking for others set in Ancient Rome.
Margaret George is known for her ability to take dry, historical, facts and turn them into an entertaining read that fans can both enjoy and learn from. History has treated Nero cruelly, those who wrote about him were not fans. But, history is told from the winner's point of view, and those who survived Nero's time can certainly be called winners. George, while not outing those biographers for their sour grapes, allows readers gain their own conclusion of the person Nero was, and why he acted as he did. She left off at a crucial point in Nero's story, but tells readers that his story continues in the next book. So, while we are at a cliffhanger, we know that Nero's story is not complete. A good read, with plenty of historical facts mixed in with the storytelling, The Confessions of Nero is a good read for fans of Margaret George. It has been a long time since her last book, and she has not let readers down.