David Barbaree


"Deposed’ is a detailed and complex book.."


AD 68. Ancient Rome. The last of the Julio-Claudian Emperors, Nero, has been deposed and has apparently committed suicide. This book takes us on an alternative route: Nero is not dead but has been imprisoned and tortured; his eyes have been gouged out and he is living in the dark, supplied with the bare necessities by a small slave boy, who is terrified.

The story is split into two parts which interlink throughout the book. The earliest story is about what happens to the deposed Emperor; the later tale is of the family that has taken power ten years later, the Flavians. Slowly, the complete narrative linking the two parts emerges, with a satisfying denouement at the end.

The character of the slave boy, Marcus, is the constant thread throughout the two parts and it is his story that is at the heart of the book.

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This is a wonderfully original and gripping tale of Ancient Rome. Starting with the hypothesis that history is written by the victors and that Nero has had a really bad press, Barbaree explores the myths that have arisen about Nero and his death and proposes an alternative story. He agrees with Mary Beard's view that we will never know what happened under Nero or Vespasian, and proceeds from there to proposing another scenario. I really enjoyed the detail of ancient Rome and the flavour of life then. There are some graphic scenes of the violence meted out. Life was certainly not easy in those days. You are plunged immediately into the atmosphere of the times and quickly engaged with the mystery of what exactly is happening and why. The author cleverly releases the truth in bite sized pieces, just enough to keep you interested. It took me a little while to adjust to the constant swinging from one time to the next, involving a lot of checking up on the Chapter headings, but once accustomed to the device, I enjoyed the way this helped to reveal the story. 'Deposed' is a detailed and complex book, a stunning first novel from David Barbaree. I look forward to reading more of his work.

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