Robert Harris's Lustrum is a thriller that pitches the listener into the power struggles and vicious factionalism of the Roman republic at one of its most tumultuous moments, as Cicero is alerted to a plot to overthrow the government and take over the state. The conspiracy is led by the aristocratic politician Catalina, backed by other, shadowy factions; even Julius Caesar is implicated. Undeterred, Cicero devotes himself to exposing the treachery, and after a bloody struggle, emerges triumphant.
But the gods are pitiless - and the most talented men over-reach themselves. When the sexually voracious senator and nobleman Clodius is put on trial, accused of entering a sacred women-only religious ritual in pursuit of Caesar's wife, Cicero finds himself embroiled in the case as the reluctant star witness for the prosecution. He has made many enemies, and as Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey grasp political power, he discovers that he has sown the seeds of his own downfall.
Meticulously researched and brilliantly written, Lustrum is an entirely self-contained novel, but it is also a continuation of Cicero's story as told in Robert Harris's best-selling Imperium. A third Roman volume will complete the trilogy in 2011.
©2009 Robert Harris; (P)2009 Random House Audio
"With Lustrum, Harris has surpassed himself. It is one of the most exciting thrillers I have ever read... I am already on tenterhooks for the final instalment..."(The Evening Standard)
"...You can see why, once he has mentally pulled on his toga and sandals, Harris communicates such a strong sense of imperial Rome - the book is awesomely well-informed about the minutiae of everyday life, but in a vivid, not a tedious way - and why the narrative verve is so infectious. This is a subject Harris has lived with for about nine years now (give or take time out to write The Ghost), and it shows." (The Guardian)
"Lustrum stands on its own merits as a thoroughly engaging historical novel. Republican Rome, with all its grandeur and corruption, has rarely been made as vivid as it appears in Harris's book. The allure of power and the perils that attend it have seldom been so brilliantly anatomised in a thriller." (The Sunday Times)
"Harris never makes his comparisons between Rome and modern Britain explicit, but they are certainly there. And that's the principal charm of his ancient thrillers - their up-to-dateness." (The Sunday Telegraph)
"Harris has taken the DNA of Cicero's great speeches and animated them with utterly believable dialogue... Harris's greatest triumph is perhaps in the evocation of Roman politics, the constant bending of ancient principles before the realities of power, and in his depiction of what it was like to live in the city: the mud, the guttering lamps, the smell of the blood from the temples. I wish I had read this book at 13, before I started ploughing through Cicero's speeches. I would take my hat off to Harris, if I hadn't already dashed it to the ground in jealous awe." (Boris Johnson, Mail on Sunday)
A reader from my youth in several languages, to have now discovered Audible is more than a bonus.
The historical research that has been done, the perspicacity with which he draws his characters, the imagination by which he constructs his stories, all these leave the reader with the conviction that Robert Harris is one of the best writers of the 20th and 21st century.
Using that unique period of time which marked the end of the Roman Republic as his framework, Harris offers us insight into the use of power as well as observing its corrupting influence in the lives of those who wield it. Cicero, Pompey, Caesar, Cato - all step from the pages of history books, and take life within our own consciousness. What is more, Robert Harris has brought the method of narration by a single character – in this case, Cicero's secretary Tiro – to a consummate art.
His first book with Cicero as the protagonist was Imperium; Lustrum continues the story. Even those who know nothing of Roman history, nor are interested in the decline of the Roman Republic, will find in these books of Robert Harris something that engages their mind as well as their eye, and will be offered insight into the grandeur and the folly of our common humanity.
"Do not start Robert Harris here!"
As someone who has enjoyed all of Harris' books, I will advice to you listen to his other works before this one. It is simply too unfocused to ever get me wound up in the story. It is all also too short, and I don't understand why it has been abgridged (unless the unabridged version would have been even more unfocused).
I recomend instead you hear Pompeii (ancient rome setting) or Ghost (modern thriller).
"Great but too short"
I would have preferred the full version but this was still enjoyable. harris is a great story teller and it was well narrated.
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