Review: The Confessions of Young Nero

Berkley Hardcover
On Sale: March 7, 2016
Price: $28.00
ISBN: 9780451473387


THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO takes readers through the early life of Rome’s infamous Nero. Through the machinations of his mother, Agrippina the Younger, Nero became emperor at the age of sixteen, the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. But the road was a frightening one.  The young boy, an intelligent, sensitive and watchful child, had a series of psychological shocks from an early age.  His cruel uncle Caligula and his scheming cousin Messalina threatened his life, and his domineering and ambitious mother Agrippina married and poisoned two men en route to securing the throne for her son. Agrippina viewed Nero’s power as an extension of her own will. But once on the throne—like the teenage boy he was—Nero did not want to take orders from his mother.  Soon the world was not big enough for the two of them. Thereafter he was remembered as a hedonist and tyrant who “fiddled” while his people burned. But the truth behind the caricature, revealed here, shows Nero to be instead a product of his mother’s relentless ambition, and the incest, violence, luxury, and intrigue that have gripped Rome’s seat of power for generations.

My Thoughts

Margaret George has made a brilliant career writing about some of the most famous characters in history. She often takes a unique look at their lives. From Cleopatra to Henry VIII, she entertains the masses. Her latest novel, The Confessions of Young Nero, is sure to leave its mark in the world of historical fiction.

There are many things said about Nero: He was a tyrant, a poet. He played the fiddle as Rome burned. He was as mad as his uncle Caligula. Some of these things are true, others just merely rumors. Historians haven't exactly been kind to him, and with so little historical documents on this great figure, how are we to know what is fact and what is fiction.

The Confessions of Young Nero is the first of two books George has written about this notorious leader of the Roman Empire. The book begins with Nero is a little boy and follows him through his life until Rome begins to burn. She explores three different sides of Nero: the Augustan one; the Apollonian one of music, art, and poetry; and the darker side of Nero. George explores not only the public perception of Nero, but also the private side in order to find the real Nero.

Nero's life was heavily influenced by his dominating mother, his teachers, and his ancestors. He had dealings with Boadicea, the apostle Paul, and Pompeii. George's account of Nero is one that hasn't been told before. Historical Fiction fans will rejoice over Margaret George's new book and will highly anticipate the sequel.