Saturday, February 27, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith

Book was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Phyllis T. Smith’s first novel, I am Livia, hooked me completely. I couldn’t wait to see what she would write next, so I was thrilled to receive a copy of her new novel, The Daughters of Palatine Hill, for review.

Once again, Smith brings the early Roman Empire to life by portraying strong women struggling to balance the demands of love, honor, and service to Rome, while living within the inner circles of power and intrigue. These were violent times. Women were political pawns, granted little to no autonomy, with strict rules of behavior. The more "important" one was, the more strictly controlled. Yet they found ways to wield influence.

Livia, the wife of Augustus Caesar, is a central character. (She was the protagonist of I am Livia.) The story begins after Augustus’s defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Caesar brings back his war prizes, including the daughter of the defeated foes. Still a child, Cleopatra Selene has witnessed the deaths of her mother, father, and two older half-brothers. She fears for her own life and learns to submit meekly to whatever is required. Yet Livia promises her fair treatment in return for loyalty. Selene must make excruciating decisions about who can be trusted and to whom she owes that loyalty.

Finally, there is Julia. Augustus’s only child, a daughter by his first marriage, Julia has been raised by Livia but there is little love between them. Julia adores her father, but when she becomes old enough to be politically useful, she feels betrayed by his choices. Always searching for love and acceptance, Julia falls farther and farther away from her family’s protective embrace.

Smith has a knack for delving into the emotional depths of women who lead lives of turmoil during times of intense historical significance. Using the lives of these women as a framework, she is able to present a great deal of finely researched, complex history, without making it seem like a history lesson. The imperfect women are presented with empathy and understanding that compels the reader to care what happens to them. I highly recommend Smith’s work. Those who love novels of Ancient Rome should add these to their to-be-read lists. And for those who are not yet intrigued by Ancient Rome, try these and you will be!

1 comment:

  1. Nice review of Phyllis T. Smith's latest novel, The Daughter's of Palatine Hill. I'll have to add it to my ever growing reading wishlist.