To Go To Troutbirders Nature Blog (click on above picture)

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I don’t often reread fiction but historical fiction, especially the really good thick ones, provide occasional exceptions. For example  Coleen McCullough’s Caesar. It had been 26 years since I’d read the  first in her series Masters of Rome,  the epic story of the last years of the Roman Republic

It was while at Yale that she wrote her first two books. One of these, The Thorn Birds, became an international best seller that in 1983 was turned into one of the most watched television mini-series of all time. It was that TV series that eventually turned me to her novels of Rome.

1. The First Man in Rome  (1990)

2. The Grass Crown (1991)

3. Fortune's Favorites (1993)

4. Caesar's Women (1996)

5. Caesar (1997)

6. The October Horse (2002)

7. Antony and Cleopatra (2007

Historical fiction at its very best. This goes for the whole series. McCullough brings it all to life: the characters, the politics, the battle scenes, the cultural dynamics...She does this by weaving in an amazing array of characters, major and minor, who ground every storyline. It is enough of a feat that she makes historical characters bristle with life and ancient events burst with excitement. It is even more impressive that she pulls this off while giving us a pretty serious history lesson. She often deviates from the main storyline to offer an anecdote or explanation concerning some arcane item such as the Bona Dea cult, or the function of the crossroads colleges. These sidebars are woven in seamlessly and the pacing doesn't suffer at all. Instead the whole story is enriched along with our appreciation of various facets of the historical context.  I just finished Caesar. Ok now I’m going to go back and read them all….:




Valerie said...

I remember The Thorn Birds. It was brilliant. Perhaps I should venture further afield and read some of her other work.

Out on the prairie said...

I read all on a good author

Anonymous said...

Nice review, TB. Your description of the author's work reminds me of how I read history, getting off on sidetracks. Unlike her I don't make it back. Story of my life.

On the other hand, this morning I wanted to reply to a couple of comments you lift on my blog and ended up here and it looks like I'm going to get out of doing the dishes.

Arkansas Patti said...

Shamed to admit that I was unaware of all she had written after Thorn Birds. For some reason I went on a reading hiatus for several years during the nineties. Thanks for the reminder. Looks like I have some catching up to do.

susan said...

Reading well written historical fiction is the best and often fastest way to come to understand a period. Last winter I read all 20+ of Patrick O'Brien's series about the Napoleonic Wars beginning with 'master and Commander'.

This one sounds like a fascinating series.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

I was not crazy about the Thorn birds, though I did read the whole book. It was hard to put down, yet left me with a vague sense of ...what? Later I realised it was the deadly seriousness that bothered me. Too much soap opera. For that reason I never picked up her Roman books. However, your recommendation will lead me to the library! And on this topic, have you ever heard Dan Carlin's audio book on the end of the Roman Republic? Do you know Dan Carlin? If not, I think you will love him!

Sarah Laurence said...

I read and enjoyed The Thorn Birds as a teenager, but I hadn't realized that the author wrote more serious historical books. They must be good for you to reread one.

Sally Wessely said...

I loved The Thorn Birds. I can't take on another long historical fiction book. You have me reading The Plantagenet series now! See how seriously I take your recommendations.