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Antony and Cleopatra: A Novel (Masters of Rome) Paperback – December 2, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McCullough (The Thorn Birds; The October Horse) continues her Masters of Rome series with a chronicle of one of history's most infamous love affairs. After the death of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Caesar's ambitious and brash cousin, and Octavian, Caesar's adopted son and designated heir, agree to jointly administer the far-flung empire: Antony in the East and Octavian in the West. It's not a happy arrangement, though, and their rivalry to rule Rome is the overarching theme of this sprawling, captivating saga. After a disastrous campaign to subdue the Parthians, Antony turns to Cleopatra, the enigmatic and fabulously wealthy queen of Egypt, to replenish his war chest. Determined to make Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar, ruler of Rome, Cleopatra seduces Antony and soon has him as soft as a mushy pudding. Meanwhile, with the aid of his wife and Marcus Agrippa, Octavian secures his position in Rome and Italia. Prodded by Cleopatra, Antony gathers his forces in Greece for an invasion of Italia. The tragic denouement is, in McCullough's capable hands, no less compelling for being so well known. As with the previous volumes in this series, the author's scholarship and larger-than-life characters bring a tempestuous Rome to life. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[A] sprawling, captivating saga.... The tragic denouement is, in McCullough's capable hands, no less compelling for being so well known. As with the previous volumes in the series, the author's scholarship and larger-than-life characters bring a tempestuous Rome to life." -- Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • Series: Masters of Rome
  • Paperback: 567 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416552952
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416552956
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neuropathologist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. Her writing career began with the publication of Tim, followed by The Thorn Birds, a record-breaking international bestseller. She lives on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific with her husband, Ric Robinson.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on December 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Forget, if you can, all of the stories that you've read or seen about the fabled Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt. Try if you can, not to see her as a voluptuous Elizabeth Taylor or enchanting Vivien Leigh or as some grand beauty. She's not in these pages. Not at all.

Instead, Colleen McCullough's final epic in her multivolume tale of the end of the Roman Republic takes an entirely new spin on the story. Nor does she forget the rest of the vivid cast that populate the story, from Octavian -- now calling himself Caesar -- and his sister, Octavia, and Mark Antony, Julius Caesar's former friend and now determined to make himself just as great as slain dictator. But there are plenty of minor players as well, and all of them are given a voice in this sprawling novel that travels from Rome to Egypt, the mountains of Armenia and as far as Parthia in the East.

The novel covers from Antony and Cleopatra?s fateful meeting in Ephesus, and goes all the way to the final, fateful end for both of them. While the story is certainly familiar, in McCullough?s capable hands, it takes on entirely new forms. Most of all it?s Octavian that takes center stage, evolving into the man that history considers the first Emperor of Rome, and his friendship with Marcus Agrippa. There?s also his family, namely the two vital women in his life ? Octavia, who might understand Octavian better than anyone, and the very clever Livia Drusilla, who most readers will remember from the 70?s BBC series, I, Claudius.

So begins a war of wills and manipulation by one of the more famous romantic couples in history.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By S. Crouch on November 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Colleen McCullough has again produced an enthralling novel of first century BC Republican Rome in "Antony and Cleopatra". If you want a book that accurately tells it the way it probably was then this is the one to get.

The drama of Antony and Cleopatra must be one of the most common historical stories told and there have been many novels and films about this era. One of the recent additions was the visually impressive but historically questionable TV series "Rome". There are a variety of interpretations of the story, some having Octavian as the villain and others Antony and Cleopatra. Octavian in this work is largely the good guy with Antony coming across as a skilled soldier but generally a pretty unimpressive character who is constantly manipulated by a scheming Cleopatra. Cleopatra is also pictured as being slightly naive without a real understanding of the Roman world as she ruthlessly pursues the interests of Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar. McCullough also takes the view that Cleopatra was physically rather unattractive which is supported by her coin portraits. This view is still unproven but no one, of course, will ever know the complete truth.

There is a lot of detail here and it takes careful work to follow all the characters, relationships and military campaigns. There are plenty of maps though and the usual glossary at the end to help.

Overall a very good historical novel which I highly recommend.
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By J. Fuchs VINE VOICE on February 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a huge fan of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series, and the First Man in Rome remains one of my all-time favorite books. Some of the books in the series were not as strong as the others and so it was with great delight that I started reading this one and saw that McCullough appeared to be back in form. Unfortunately, my pleasure did not last.

This book should more aptly be titled Antony and Octavian, because what it is really about is the battle for control of Rome between these two strong men. Events start out shortly after the battle of Philippi, as Octavian, Antony and Lepidus form the second triumvirate and divide up the Roman Empire, ostensibly as equals. We are introduced to the historical figures who played a significant part in the lives of Antony and Octavian, including Sextus Pompeius, the outlawed, pirate son of Pompey the Great, and Octavian's second-in-command Agrippa, whose military and engineering genius propelled Octavian to greatness. The women get plenty of time in this novel, particularly Octavia (Octavian's sister) and Livia Drusilla, Octavian's power-hungry wife, in addition to Cleopatra.

The book is at its best when examining the characters of Antony, Octavian and Cleopatra, especially in the early days of their conflict, as Antony travels to his domains in the east and vows to defeat the Parthians, a task Julius Caesar never finished. McCullough presents a compelling account of Antony's disastrous campaign to take Phrapssus, and his subsequent descent into an alcoholic fugue, which only Cleopatra seems able to pull him out of. But shorly after this, however, when Antony takes up residence in the East, the book starts to fall apart.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Eldridge on December 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Historical fiction always has the seeming disadvantage that the reader already knows the story, at least in broad strokes, and worse still, knows the outcome. This is no handicap whatsoever to Colleen McCullough. She has fashioned the historical figures into thoroughly vibrant and believable characters. Though the story is narrated in the third person, the reader is regularly treated to short passages in the first person that allow insights into the characters and their motivations. These insights sweep us into the lives of these famous figures. We are horrified along with Antony's generals at the machinations of Cleopatra, yet at the same time we empathize with his feelings for her. We are shattered along with Cleopatra at the realizations and the decisions she is forced to make towards the end. We share Octavian's hopes and dreams and, though horrified by some of his acts, we understand their roots. The glimpses inside the minds of these people of the ancient world allow us more than just an understanding of their character. Woven through their thoughts, words and deeds is masterful portrayal of ancient Rome herself and the ideas and concepts that sustained one of the world's greatest empires. McCullough builds such a tangible depiction of ideas like dignitas, auctoritas and mos maiorum, that we understand them without the need of the handy glossary she has provided. The novel is a masterpiece.
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