Review: Dictator

Dictator by Robert Harris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolutely fantastic conclusion to a spectacular historical-fiction trilogy.

As someone who is quite familiar with the Classics — even spending a year studying Cicero’s writings — I am overjoyed with how Robert Harris has managed to make historical fact seem like a story he made up in his head. Perhaps this is the benefit of telling Cicero’s tale through the eyes of his secretary, Marcus Tullius Tiro, the very same man who invented an early form of shorthand. Through Tiro we see Cicero in all his strengths and vices: we see the statesman, the orator, the husband, the father…the man, faults and all.

I’ve always found the difficulty with any kind of historical fiction such as this, which hews so closely to its history, is that when one is familiar with the history, it can be hard to maintain tension. But this series managed it, especially in this book. I probably spent most of it groaning aloud saying: “Cicero don’t do that!” because I knew that it would end poorly for him. But, unfortunately, Harris is faithful to history and, so, we must watch the rise and inevitable fall of the man that was Marcus Tullius Cicero.

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