AUTHOR: ROBERT HARRIS
Details: no.1 Cicero
Bookclub read for February
I don't think I would have finished this book if I hadn't been reading it for my bookclub. To be captivated by this book, I think the reader would have to be fascinated by politics. My interest in that field isn't deep enough to want to spend hours reading about the mechanics of it, not even when the background is provided by ancient Rome.
This is the story of Cicero and his rise through the political ranks in Rome, as narrated by his secretary and slave, Tiro.
The story starts with Tiro admitting a terrified Sicilian to Cicero's house.
Cicero, who is an ambitious and gifted young lawyer and senator at the time, takes on the politically dangerous case the Sicilian presents and with that sets of on his path through the layers of political power in Rome.
On his way up he will make enemies and friends, will have to let ideals go and discover new ones, and will have at least as many moments of despair as he does of triumph.
Overall, I found the amount of characters and the detailed descriptions of the scheming going on rather tiresome. I have to admit though that the writing was of such a standard that finishing the book never felt like too much of an uphill struggle.
What did amuse me was the realization of how little has changed in the world of politics, despite more than 20 centuries having passed since Cicero's day.
The political world is still largely one of friends helping friends, where what matters is who you know, not what you know, and where money will by you power and favour.
One line in the book reminded me of the Tv-series "Yes (Prime) Minister:
"These people, Cicero complained to me one morning, are a warning of what happens to any state which has a permanent staff of officials. They begin as our servants and end up imagining themselves our masters." (p. 290)
Another quote I really liked:
"The art of life is to deal with problems as they arise, rather than destroy one's spirit by worrying about them too far in advance." (p.402)
And one last line:
"Words, words, words. Is there no end to the tricks you can make them perform?" (p. 402).
Finally I have to admit that even though I was't overly impressed by this book, I do find myself wondering what happened next in Cicero's life and career, and thinking that I may just have to read "Lustrum" to find out.