This book can empirically claim its place alongside the magna –grand scale productions such as Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Caesar, Samson and Delilah...you see where I’m going with this- The Big Screen. I was completely enraptured. Paramount are you reading this?
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the story manages to clench my insides and get to that part of my gut where just a tad more would be enough to... and then stops- to just about where I’ve had as much as I can take. Mistress of Rome takes you there. Kate Quinn knows exactly how much we can handle-right upto that very point where you must exhale, to then weave the story into bliss.
In this grand novel, the crude is mirrored and diminished by the grand and triumphant splendour of love and tenderness. That being said, Mistress of Rome is also about power, vice, history, raw times and treachery. There’s struggle with moral issues, psychological afflictions and disturbances, scheming ascensions, spectacular gladiator triumphs- and yes, along with it all, as expected in decadent and barbaric Rome, alot of gore, as well. Too much to handle? No, everything is given in just the right dose and is not focal to the magnitude of the story itself. Quinn is spectacular at her craft.
The story is told through the perspective of important characters - principally, Thea, the unattainably invincible Jewish slave (gentleness and sorrow behind a stony facade- I loved her!); the harsh and brutally scheming Lepida (I’m still disgusted...), and Julia, the vestal virgin (my soul cried out for her...). I know that the shifting character perspective is not a favourite with many- but for me, I believe that this actually enhanced the plot, helping to render an excellent story. I loved getting into their heads. Quinn did an all-around amazing job with this superb novel.
And so what about gladiators? In this book you’ll meet Arius-an indestructible powerhouse who bows down to no one-not even the Emperor. The 'Barbarian', they called him- He lives up magnificently to the legend rather than the name. As for the Emperor, who delighted in taunting in his sick pathetic and torturing ways, well, let’s just say that all those worthy of time spent serving him for pleasure and for vice, would ultimately reach their time for vengeance...
Ahhh, there is so much to this novel that I just cannot do it justice with one simple review. If you love all that is of the ancient world- you need to read this. Mistress of Rome gets as crudely descriptive (though in good taste- yes in this novel it’s possible!) as you’d imagine; while being as tender as you’d dream it could be- all that and more.
One word: Colossal
Note: I don’t star-rate my novels (except on sites where I don’t have a choice; Amazon and the like and even then I rarely rate higher than 4 - maybe for a Plaidy, or Gulland's...) Well, this novel is the exception as well.
If you’re interested in reading Kate Quinn’s interesting interview, please see Here.