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on October 21, 2017
Considered great literature and it probably is but it is impossible to get any sense of what Rome's first emperor, Augustus, was about. If you want to learn anything about Augustus, stay away from this book. If you want to read a literary masterpiece by an author versed enough in the foibles of Roman history nearly 2000 years ago to weave a fabric of fictional letters, notes, memoranda Augustus might have written or received, this is the book for you.
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on March 16, 2017
This novel written in epistolary format provides a continuation and development of John Williams ideas about how circumstances, decisions, and relational interactions influence the path of development of a man. It completes the themes developed in his first two novels, "Butchers Crossing" and "Stoner." While all three books are ostensibly historical fiction the more important aspects are the concepts around the development of a man's character from plans initiated to outcomes dependent on decisions made and external societal influences and forces.
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on March 28, 2014
The Augustus of History was a politician in every sense of the word. But this book is weighted more toward a literary Augustus. Interesting! The Roman Patrician and Equites classes in Augustus' era did have the opportunity to become well-versed in Greek literature, philosophy and rhetorics in addition to Latin. Hence it is not unlikely that Augustus could have developed literary inclinations. As it is a novel, the author is at liberty to shape what little facts there are to suit his purpose. Of course, in the end, I'm unsure as to whether the Augustus of this book is a close approximation to reality or not. Even so, this work is well-nuanced and is a pleasure to read as long as one is not expecting deep excursions into the political domain.
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on November 29, 2015
John Williams simply deserves to be better known. His Stoner and Butcher's Crossing were great reads. Augustus is written in the form of letters and memoirs from different people contemporary with Augustus. I normally hate books written in this manner, so I was going to give this a pass, but Williams has somehow handled it so that each writer's contribution holds your interest - a bit of gossip, an historical insight, some psychological speculation on a famous person. It all adds up to another reason to place Williams among the American writers that ought to be a familiar name. Thank you NYRB for making him easily available.
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on July 4, 2017
This was my first John WIlliams novel. Written as series of letters among the prime players in the world of Augustus. One will understand Shakespeare's Julius Caesar far better and the ancient world after reading it. Awesome. Book was in top condition.
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on June 26, 2016
John Williams is a master craftsman who is constantly boring into questions about an individual's place in society and his world. In Augustus, Williams presents a tour de force of his narrative skills spanning the final fifty years of Caesar Augustus' public and private life through a series of letters from many of his contemporaries, including Cicero, Cleopatra, Livy, Horace and Virgil. A completely enjoyable read from the assassination of Julius Caesar to Augustus' last hours.
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on November 23, 2016
I started reading the book having already some knowledge of the events to follow. However, Mr. Williams used one of the well adopted ways of describing someone or something complex by setting a lot of mirrors supplying a reader with a miltiple images of Rome, Augustus, his friend\loved ones and enemies. He literally used the time machine to travel back and forth and sewed events with sometimes years or tens of years between them. But this may give a reader a 3-D vision of the history, events and personalities and proves that the HISTORY may not be a one way road and also that most of the events may only be seen and weighed from perspective.
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on March 16, 2016
I was looking for Roman historical fiction as good as Robert Grave's "I Claudius". Augustus is as close as it gets. Not quite as colorful but likely more historically accurate, the novel explores the emperor as a deeply thoughtful, complex and moral man. Williams' beautiful work lets us understand how this adopted son of the deceased Emporer with unsure claims to any power, following his own instinct and love of country, could have created such a golden age for Rome.
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on November 8, 2014
Williams's device, of letters and diary entries, scattered in time and out-of-phase in time, gives a refreshing immediacy to his account of the period in Roman history marked by the first empire, formed and ruled by Gaius Octavius who became Augustus Caesar. With great skill and delicacy, Williams creates the character with Augustus himself mute till the end, through the accounts of his wife, lovers, friends, and daughter, foregrounding the roles of poets and writers such as Vergil, Horace and Ovid, and gives Augustus a finely drawn life and a political career of peculiar reality, opening this period of history to us without glorious melodrama but rather through the voices of personalities of the time.
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on March 8, 2015
This is the third book I've read by John Williams and, for sure, the most daunting. I have the utmost respect for the writer and his ability to take on different genres. Augustus is a brilliant work of historical fiction, and reads as if it's non-fiction: meaning that every detail rings true. Williams' ability to mix scholarship with craft is remarkable. I'm glad that I bought the Kindle version. The book is epistolary and it helped to be able to click on a name and bring up a little bio. Otherwise, I might have gotten a bit lost, given that each section is in a different voice. My only regret is that Williams wasn't more prolific.
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