The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
An overview of the last century of the Roman republic, Tom Holland's Rubicon has been widely praised for readability, insight and intelligence. I was surprised to find the prose opaque and rather over-written, devoting paragraphs to nebulous assertions e.g.
A city — a free city — was where a man could be most fully a man. The Romans took this for granted. To have civitas — citizenship — was to be civilised, an assumption still embedded in English to this day. Life was worthless without those frameworks that only an independent city could provide. A citizen defined himself by the fellowship of others, in shared joys and sorrows, ambitions and fears, festivals, elections, and disciplines of war. Like a shrine alive with the presence of a god, the fabric of a city was rendered sacred by the communal life that it sheltered. A cityscape, to its citizens, was therefore a hallowed thing. It bore witness to the heritage that had made its people what they were. It enabled the spirit of a state to be known.
Yes, there's an entirely valid point being made here but it's being made slowly and with a certain amount of circumlocution.
Rubicon has been touted as popular narrative history but that conjures up a narrative of events. This is a narrative of ideas and not to be taken at a gallop. Thought-provoking, and ambitious but not always as entertaining or as gripping as the reviews would have you believe.