Colleen McCullough

Connavar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
Messages
8,411
IMO thats what HF is all about. You are accurate enough to capture the time and its people and then you invent incidents to drive the plot without making unbelievable by changing too many historical Facts.


Anyway i found it in my bookshop and told them to hold it for a couple of days.

Thanks for info Svalbard. Im trying to get this author CM too and hope she is as good as people say.
 

Bayou Boy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
186
I've read all 7 books in the "Masters of Rome" series.

I actually loved the first three (The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, and Fortune's Favorites) but really did not enjoy McCullough's take on Julius Caesar himself.

I thought that, despite her claims to the contrary, she really had fallen in love with her title character. I thought that Caesar's opponents were dumbed down in an effort to elevate Caesar. I thought her treatment of Cato, Pompey, and Brutus was horrendous.

And Antony? In addition to portraying him as a drunken lout, McCullough even takes the unique position that Antony never actually delivered an oration at Caesar's funeral.

Caesar's flaws and exercises in poor judgment (e.g., cuckolding the wives of his fellow Senators is, basically, explained away as a practice he started because his mother, Aurelia, suggested that the reputation as a pathological seducer of women would remove the unfair slurs of a homosexual relationship with King Nicomedes). When Caesar dons the high boots of the kings of Alba Longa, McCullough explains that it's because he has varicose veins. Epilepsy? No, not our Caesar, McCullough explains that he's simply seized by hypoglycemic fits.

She even did a little bit of this with Octavian/Augustus. She gives him asthma as a way to explain that allegations of a lack of physical courage aren't accurate.

I still really enjoyed her writing style and her attention to detail, but, particularly after seeing how she could give such an enjoyable portrayal of great, though flawed, men such as Marius and Sulla, I was profoundly disappointed that she seemed to suffer from a case of hero worship when it came to Caesar.
 

svalbard

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 28, 2007
Messages
2,256
I agree with your assessment of her treatment of Caesar, Bayou. She was(is) definitely in love with him. I think she was quite sympathetic towards Cato in the October Horse, especially around his last days in Africa.

Ultimately her first three books were the best. Her characterization of Sulla is one of the best ever put to pen and there were some other wonderful characters as well. Marcus Aemilius Scaurus's speeches in the Senate make for great reading and Clodius is like a minor more viscous version of Sulla.

One of the reasons the first three are so good is that there is so little actual documented history(compared with Caesar's day) about the period and she allowed her imagination to run riot.
 

Rosemary

The Wicked Sword Maiden
Joined
Jun 14, 2005
Messages
3,447
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is her latest publication. A vast difference to her previous books.

This one is about Mary Bennet, one of the characters from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Apparently the paperbacks were on the bookshelves in August, both in the UK and USA. I'm not a fan of Ms McCullough but I wonder when Australia finally gets their copies?
 

Connavar

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 1, 2007
Messages
8,411
I've read all 7 books in the "Masters of Rome" series.

I actually loved the first three (The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, and Fortune's Favorites) but really did not enjoy McCullough's take on Julius Caesar himself.

I thought that, despite her claims to the contrary, she really had fallen in love with her title character. I thought that Caesar's opponents were dumbed down in an effort to elevate Caesar. I thought her treatment of Cato, Pompey, and Brutus was horrendous.

And Antony? In addition to portraying him as a drunken lout, McCullough even takes the unique position that Antony never actually delivered an oration at Caesar's funeral.

Caesar's flaws and exercises in poor judgment (e.g., cuckolding the wives of his fellow Senators is, basically, explained away as a practice he started because his mother, Aurelia, suggested that the reputation as a pathological seducer of women would remove the unfair slurs of a homosexual relationship with King Nicomedes). When Caesar dons the high boots of the kings of Alba Longa, McCullough explains that it's because he has varicose veins. Epilepsy? No, not our Caesar, McCullough explains that he's simply seized by hypoglycemic fits.

She even did a little bit of this with Octavian/Augustus. She gives him asthma as a way to explain that allegations of a lack of physical courage aren't accurate.

I still really enjoyed her writing style and her attention to detail, but, particularly after seeing how she could give such an enjoyable portrayal of great, though flawed, men such as Marius and Sulla, I was profoundly disappointed that she seemed to suffer from a case of hero worship when it came to Caesar.
Wow thats dissapointing about Anthony specially. I have read and seen alot of Ceasar,Brutus i wanted to read her if she did Anthony. I wanted to read his story. Are one book focused on him or is he just a side character in Ceasar's ?

Shame i wanted a good historical fiction about Marc Anthony.

Are Marius,Sulla books one of her better ones ?
 

svalbard

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 28, 2007
Messages
2,256
Her last book in the series is called Anthony and Cleopatra. It is quite detailed, but I have reservations about some of it. Enjoyable all the same. Anthony also plays a large part in the sixth book called the October Horse and he comes out fairly well in the end at Phillipi. The fouth book, I think, deals a lot with Anthony as a youth. These are huge books with a cast of thousands and at times you can lose track of some of the characters.

But Marius and Sulla are her best creations! Pompey is also dealt with in detail, especially his younger days as a general in Spain.
 

annis

Member
Joined
Nov 19, 2008
Messages
16
I'm a bit surprised that "The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet" isn't yet available in Oz, as it's out on the bookshelves here in New Zealand.

Colleen McCullough is in failing health these days, and unfortunately I think it does show in "Antony and Cleopatra".

I don't think anyone's mentioned my two favourite CM books; "Song of Troy" and "Morgan's Run"

"Song of Troy" is a retelling of the epic of the Trojan War from multiple POVs. Each chapter as told from the point of a different main character from both sides of the conflict

"Morgan's Run' is set in colonial Australia, an old-fashioned adventure about an enterprising Englishman sent to a penal settlement in the new colony.
 

svalbard

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 28, 2007
Messages
2,256
I enjoyed the Song of Troy. It is a few years since I read it and the memory is hazy. What I do remember is reading the book in one sitting.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
Have almost finished reading First Man In Rome and am really enjoying it - not least because she's seriously researched her subject and filled the story with brilliant little rich details that support the narrative, rather than distract from it.

The only real criticism so far is that she seems to lose focus sometimes, insisting that we must visit the lives of people who don't seem to have much impact in the story, such as the marriage arrangements for young Caepio.

Love the sense of humour from Rufilus, and his latin jokes.

Even better - love the fact that she has clearly preserved the sense of Roman arrogance - no 21st century liberal attitudes here!
 

Interversus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2012
Messages
52
I'm about half way through Fortunes Favorites. Its been a good long read, but I've only made it this far as I love Roman history and whenever something major happens in the books I research it a little, even to the point I dig out Rome Total war and take it for a drive.

I can't imagine how she managed to keep the story under control, I can only keep up with the main characters.

There's a lot of administration by the third book, but I love seeing how the Empire evolved and grew and destroyed itself over and over. If only school history had been like this.
 

sknox

Member and remember
Joined
Mar 25, 2013
Messages
1,270
Location
Idaho
I read them pretty much as they came out and fully enjoyed them. I was curious about her history, as I found it to be generally reliable, so (fwiw) I asked over on the ancient-l discussion listserv (populated mainly by professional ancient historians) and the consensus there was that she did her homework and that she did no real violence to the historical facts. I wouldn't read her for history, as there are excellent historians for that, but I recommend her to my students all the time.
 

the Jester

Active Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2013
Messages
28
I totally love these books, and give all of them high marks (with Antony and Cleopatra getting my vote for weakest). She's very clearly done her research, and she adds a lot of little details to the books that make ancient Rome very vivid (things like the social significance of different elements in the characters' togas). Very cool stuff.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
Am reading the Grass Crown, the second in the series, and enjoying it even more than the first book, First Man in Rome. The depth of the story and characters is just brilliant, and some of the events I considered a bit long-winded in the first have become integral to the second.

It's really nice to really enjoy a good story again. :)
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
The Grass Crown was an excellent read. The development of Marius and Sulla was superb.

Am just starting the third in the series, Fortune's Favourites, now. I just hope I remember all the characters properly, especially as much of this will be dealing with a new generation after the blood letting in the previous two!

I know it's classed under "Historical Fiction", but I'd rather regard it as pure epic fantasy - and one of the best of its kind - so far at least. I hope I don't end up eating my words!
 

svalbard

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 28, 2007
Messages
2,256
Fortune's Favourites is her best book in the series, imo. It is where the seeds of destruction of the Republic are really sown. The series also takes on a grander, epic scale.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
Finally finished the entire series - very enjoyable, though was beginning to feel a little tired at the end - she finished in the right place.

Most memorable moment will always be Sulla's character transformation - specifically at the end of his life, when he returned to what he felt was his true sense of self. Truly marvellous.

But to echo the above, Marius and Sulla are the highlight of this series. I think it's really supposed to be a full biography as novel of Julius Caesar, but Marius and Sulla over shadow everything that follows after them.

A truly superb series, though a little thick and heavy perhaps for people with little interest in Rome. But absolutely glorious for those of those with some. :)

Superb characterisation, superb interpretation of history. The history of the Republic never appealed to me previously, but it's wonderfully presented here as a vivid, living history.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
Watched a history channel documentary about Marius. It was all about the military and political history of fighting the Gauls, and nothing about the man, other than he was a good general, introduced reforms to the Roman army, and became proconsul 7 times (thus establishing a potential precedent for future emperors).

Once I might have enjoyed the program, but after reading McCullough, I was frustrated that the program gave little information on the man himself - the story that McCullough gave him.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,780
Location
Highlands
Not sure - it's an old History channel series on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. It was a DVD set I got a couple of years ago, but have only just got around to watching.
 
Top