Wednesday, April 2, 2014



Pages: 161
Date: 02/04/2014
Grade: 5
Details: Companion book to “The Adulteress
            Received from the author

From the author’s website:

“The Secret Loves of Julia Caesar is a search for the true nature of love in all its glorious and terrible manifestations. It can be read as a companion book to my 2009 novel, The Adulteress since The Secret Loves is the book that Nicholas finds in his attic, penned by June Fanning, a young wife who lived in his house during the Second World War.

At the same time this novella is a complete book in itself; my re-imagining of the true story of Julia, infamous daughter of Emperor Augustus of Rome, who was exiled to a deserted island for her adultery. It will take you on a sensory journey to Ancient Rome; and further perhaps, to your own heart and fantasies?”


My thoughts:

This small but utterly beautiful book contains the story of Julia Caesar, the fabled beauty who was the daughter of the Emperor Augustus of Rome. The reader watches as Julia loses her mother at an early age. We witness a few months of happiness when Julia, aged only 14 marries her cousin Marcellus who loves her enough not to take her to his bed for fear that childbirth will kill her. We are with Julia as her heart breaks when Marcellus dies and despair with her when she’s forced to marry the much older Agrippa. We rejoice for Julia when she at last discovers the comforts of sex with her lover, the poet Sempronius Gracchus and mourn for her as comfort turns into addiction.

It is heartbreaking that Julia only discovers the joys of intimacy and sex after the husband she loved deeply has died, while she is pregnant with her first child by the husband she detests, and from a man who can only be her lover.

“This is the secret of love. It is sex.”

And because the man who teaches her about love is also a man who will never love just her, Julia tries to find that elusive feeling again and again through meetings with difference lovers and prostitution. It is the forbidden love with and from her slave Phoebe that teaches Julia her second lesson about love:

“This is the secret of love(…). It is trust.”

But years of being used by her husband and allowing herself to be used by others have turned Julia’s once pure feelings into something cynical.

“Love is a game (…) which we humans like to play, and sometimes it is fun and sometimes it hurts. Like any game, there is a winner and a loser.”

And yet, Julia’s need for love and the pleasure she derives from sharing that love with men bring her an endless amount of satisfaction.

“Yes, I am a whore in the goddess sense. A vessel for physical pleasure, a priestess for the body.”

Exiled by her father for her promiscuous behaviour, it takes Julia a long time before she comes to terms with her fate and the solitude that will be hers for the rest of her life. And yet, it teaches her the next lesson about love:

“This is the secret of love (…). Forgiveness.”

It is exile that will take Julia from utter despair and depression:

“And when she replays these scenes they weigh like lead upon her heart, because she regrets everything.”

to the lesson about love:

“Yes this is the secret of love, giving.”

This book is beautiful in more ways than one. I’m not sure I would call this book a novel. I think “The secret loves of Julia Caesar” could be better described as a work of art. Between these covers we find Julia’s story but we also discover beautiful drawings, fragments of history and wonderful poetry. This is not the sort of book you pick up and read from cover to cover in a few hours. This is a publication that should be treasured, reflected upon and slowly devoured. I can only hope that the upcoming e-book release of this story will be able to bring all these aspects of the story to the reader.

Noëlle Harrison has discovered the secret of beautiful words, made it her own and then, generously, decided to share it with the world:

“We are the same Phoebe (…). We have already cried the tears of many lifetimes. We are saltwater sisters.”

No comments: