Report on Imperium

by Robert Harris

Doing this now before I get into Lustrum.

Imperium is a wonderfully riveting read and we remain most impressed by Harris’ particularly unique ability lend life to classical historical tales as he did with Dreyfus. The characterisation in Imperium is superb – the choice of telling the story from the perspective of Tiro the secretary is particularly useful and inspired. Empathy is well measured in doses with Imperium – we like Tiro – even though he could reflection be seen as an empty vehicle/vessel, we do get a vision of where he is going from and seeks. His own perspectives seem nuanced and very well balanced. Through Tiro’s recollection, Cicero is a flawed but driven individual that through the tale we come to learn (as does the seemingly) the objective of Roman (?maybe all) politics and his own desires – also the challenge of choosing what in life will be valued and to what end (marriage to what purpose? – and by no means static). What is to be traded for greater reward – life is a series of compromises – a magnificent game of shifting rules, challenges and potential – but always shifting.

The foreshadowing surrounding Caesar borders possibly on too pronounced, but even with Pompey the Great depends on how much Roman History one has on mind going into the novel. Regardless of prior knowledge I feel Harris does an amazing job of introducing colourful historical detail with a most engaging style and without any sense of belabouring recitation to merely show erudition. Perhaps this is further reinforced by his frank and open discussion on his use of sources, his personal conjectural process and his honest admission of what can be derived from the primary source material and where he accepts responsibility for novella inventions.

I really enjoyed Imperium and am now moving on into Lustrum – but have specifically crafted this before too many pages and possible colouring by the follow on work.

Thanks, Fergal for your recommendation and do please share your own reactions and in specific your individual grades for my scriberly records. My vote – an absolutely solid 8.

Please do make a note of 2 things for me:
1. Individual scores for Imperium by name;
2. Also, book titles suggested and of course the one chosen.

I really look forward to hearing about your deliberations.

BTW in case of use, we do have the following non-fiction on offer from last month for consideration this:
Joe: the Invention of Nature – von Humbolt.

Report from the club courtesy of Fergal.

We almost achieved a full house for the first time ever in the history of our humble book club on Thursday night. Brian’s release from tennis duties brought him firmly into the fold, but Shaun’s enforced absence meant the full set still eludes us.

Shaun, you were missed, but a lively conversation was had, including reference to your own comments. I won’t embarrass myself by trying to emulate your summary approach but will say the feedback was overall very positive, with Jim the least enthusiastic, based I believe having too high an expectation of the author based on past reading.

The average score was a nice, round 7, with the individual scores as follows:
· Jim 5
· Joe 7
· Brian M 6
· Mike 8
· Brian C 7
· Fergal 8
· Shaun 8

Unusually for us, there was only one nomination for the non-fiction book for March, The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf, so in the absence of any competition, it was selected. Joe has promised us that it is “very, very interesting” and challenged any of us to disagree when we meet next.

From this, an interesting proposal was discussed to get those nominating a book to put their money where their mouth is; if your nominated book fails to score at least 5/10, you are obliged to buy a round of drinks for all in attendance (the score will need to be adjusted by the percentage of the book completed!). I will leave that one here for further discussion.

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