This is a fascinating book about one of history's most significant figures. I studied Roman history extensively in college, but most histories gloss over so many of the most fascinating years of Augustus' life. Everitt's book delves into them and more. It's a compelling, enjoyable, and even-handed appraisal of the man's life an times. A perfect follow-up to the book Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland, which is another great audiobook.
This book is a lot of fun. The central character, a real man who got involved in some really outlandish and dangerous situations, is like someone from a movie. In fact if, like me, you love the movie The Sting, this is a must-listen. The narrator is especially well-cast, and makes even the duller moments engaging. But there aren't a lot of dull moments.
Occasionally I would think that some event presented as fact was just too outlandish to be true, that we only had the man's word for how it happened. To her credit, the author usually points this out, often with a funny or wry comment. Other times, against all probability, she provides additional evidence that some wild event really did happen, an independent witness or article.
If you've any interest in con artists or complicated true tales of vigilante justice, this is a perfect choice.
This is a strangely-organized book. It starts out as a detailed history of the titular fire, but that has burned its way through the book by the halfway point. The second half of the book is a straight-forward biography of Nero's life from the fire onward, with some flashbacks to his earlier days. It's a little plodding in the second half, and you'll learn a lot of details about how various Roman nobles killed themselves. A lot.
The narrator is clear and easy to follow, but rather stilted and very dry. Not particularly engaging at all.
The author makes some interesting deviations from the conventional wisdom on Nero's killing of Christians. I can't judge whether or not he's likely to be right, but he weirdly places the argument for his changes in the introduction and then in the main narrative presets his version as pure fact, without reference to any debate amongst historians. I found that off-putting.
I have read a fair amount of ancient history, but never knew much about Carthage in particular. This book gives a compelling, easy to understand and enjoyable to hear overview of the ancient city's entire history. There are just a few dry as dust sections where archaeological details get a little overwhelming, but the vast majority of the book moves along well. Grover Gardner, as always, does a great job with the narration.
I majored in classical history and studied this period pretty intensely - but that was twenty years ago. For me this was a wonderful refresher, engaging and fast-paced and very informative. I can't recommend it enough if you're interested in the period.
I've knocked the Performance score because, while the narrator is quite good, there are a lot slightly over-long pauses, especially in the beginning. There are also numerous instances where you can hear him swallow or make other little noises, which is something I don't ever remember hearing on an audiobook before. I assume it was the producers fault. It's a minor distraction from a great listen.
I learned a lot listening to this book, but everything I learned felt grossly simplified. Lewis has latched onto these defining aspects of national character as his framework for the book, and I think he very often overplays them. The generalizations and pop-psych cultural studies sometimes fly a little thick and obscure the more interesting points, which I found distracting. But overall, it's worth a listen.
The book covers a lot of time and a lot of people, but it never drags and is always interesting. I burned right through it, learning and enjoying (and being appalled by bad papal behavior) all the way through.
The book has two readers, and the woman, Tavia Gilbert, does a good job. But I found David Drummond's reading to be excruciating and eventually stopped listening. The plot was mildly engaging, but not enough to make me suffer through.
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