Monday, April 13, 2015

Augustus by John WIlliams (1972)

This was not particularly interesting.  It seemed to be a rehash of other works - of course I, Claudius, but also Thornton Wilder had a similar book that I glanced at once, The Ides of March.  Steven Saylor writes far more arrestingly, about a similar time period.  Even though Saylor writes genre fiction, his prose is sharper and more emotional gut wrenching than much of this

What I didn't understand about this book, what annoyed me, was the storyline.  I felt like the whole book could have been about Octavian's relationship with his daughter, but that was only the second half of the book.  Quite frankly, that was the most interesting part, and John Williams didn't even make it that interesting.

I think the composer John Williams might have written a more interesting book.

This was a winner of the National Book Award in 1973, a prize it shared with John Barth's Chimera. There was an interesting blog post here:  http://www.nbafictionblog.org/nba-winning-books-blog/1973-1.html about the the panel that year torn between traditionalists and post-modernists, with both sides eventually winning out.

AugustusAugustus by John Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not very engaging; and the storyline bugged me.  It seemed to be about too much, if that makes sense; the last fourth of the book about Octavian and his relationship with his daughter was by far the most interesting, and could have been flushed out into the entire book.  I don't know - I think the composer John Williams could have written a more interesting book.  I'd say if you're wanting something about ancient Rome, try Steven Saylor.  His genre fiction is more engaging, with sharp prose and moving plots.


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