Book review: Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

  • Apr. 7, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Historical Fiction

Published Feb.28, 2017. Penguin Random House

Margaret George’s newest piece of historical fiction takes place during the younger years of the infamous Nero – the emperor who “fiddled while Rome burned.”

Readers begin back in his childhood. His birth name was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, his father was murdered and his mother was obsessed with making sure that he would one day become emperor (and that she will reap the benefits of his power). Nero even had to witness his mother destroy his stepfather to satisfy her own ambition.

The young boy is a helpless pawn in the larger schemes of others. He learns at a young age that life can be short – especially when he has Agrippina as his mother (he fears her). He knows that she has murdered before.

From his very earliest days, Nero watches others scheme, poison, and claw their way towards power. It really takes a toll on him. This early witness to violence and politics are deeply embedded in his life, whether he likes it or not. Just to put it into perspective, Nero’s uncle, the Emperor Caligula, once declared war on the god, Poseidon, and had his soldiers run into the ocean and stab the waves with their swords – totally not crazy, right?

So many events and notable facts are entwined in this novel such as Nero’s explosive relationship with his mother Agrippina, his marriage to Poppaea, Rome’s battle with Queen Boudicca, his meeting with the Apostle Paul, and the burning of Rome.

This is a tale of Ancient Rome which has everything you would expect – threats of death, poison, seduction, murder, power, politics and the man chosen to be the heir of Claudius, who needs to be ever watchful, suspicious and unsure who he can trust.

This is an entertaining historical novel and an enjoyable addition to Margaret George’s series of fictional biographies

Nero’s slide from his good intentions to his heavy-handed rule is well documented. This is where George creates a full story, complete characters and believable environments. Beyond Nero’s political dealings, George delves into Nero’s personal side as well and paints Nero as a flawed man, but one that knows he is flawed.

His love of the arts and music, and his inner turmoil of being an Emperor and the horrible things he had to do along the way.

The Confessions of Young Nero is a masterfully wrought story of one of the most notorious emperors in Roman history. It is obvious that the author does a huge amount of research and this is reflected in the care she takes to tell the story thoroughly. George is very talented writer who uses hard research as the foundation for her amazing novels.

Born and raised in Red Deer, Kirsten Lowe is studying English and History at Athabasca University.

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