Checkman's Reviews > The First Man in Rome

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
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Feb 21, 2012

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bookshelves: historical-fiction, a-disappointment, drama

First I have to compliment Colleen McCullough on her research. Truly an outstanding effort and very praiseworthy. Her glossary at the end of the book is excellent and one which I have referred back to more then once for just general information. Having said that I now have to state that the entire series has been going down in quality since the second installment The Grass Crown . With the first two novels it is apparent that Ms. McCullough wrote them more or less simultaneously over a period of several years while doing her very extensive research. I read that she spent over five years researching and writing the first chapters and it shows. The attention to detail is excellent, her characters come to life, they sound and act like Romans (Silly thing to write actually. Let's go with they don't sound and act like people living in the late Twentieth Century. None of us actually know what ancient Romans sounded or acted like do we). There is nothing modern about her dialogue, plot, or characterization. After a short while I felt like I was reading a prequel to Robert Graves classic novels about Claudius. The only thing I felt there wasn't enough of was the biting wit that was so prevalent in Graves work. But I could live with that.

Unfortunately ,starting with the third installment, I saw the old Colleen McCullough coming through. The bestselling author who has written The Thorn Birds and Tim . It was obvious that the research was done and the dramatic stage set was built. Now Ms. McCullough was simply filling in with her trademark writing. Instead of a series of Roman novels there is a soap opera with modern characters running around in togas. Instead of intriguing and fleshed out historical personae there is hero worship of Julius Caesar and two dimensional characters. I made it through the fourth installment and gave up. More tired then disgusted - for what had been rather unusual was now become typical and could just as easily be set in New York City of today. I recommend the first two novels highly. In my opinion they reach a level higher then the average summertime read, but after that one has mind candy. Read I Claudius and Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert Graves if you want truly entertaining fiction set in the Roman Empire.
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03/24/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Supratim (new)

Supratim Nice review, Checkman !


Checkman Supratim wrote: "Nice review, Checkman !"

Thank you


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