The Confessions Of Young Nero by Margaret GeorgeThe Confessions Of Young Nero by Margaret George

The Confessions Of Young Nero

byMargaret George

Hardcover | March 7, 2017

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The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.

Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman—or child.
 
As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.
 
While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become—an Emperor who became legendary.
 
With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival.
Margaret George is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels of biographical historical fiction, including Elizabeth I, Helen of Troy, Mary, Called Magdalene, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles. She also has written a children’s book, Lucille Lost.
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Title:The Confessions Of Young NeroFormat:HardcoverDimensions:528 pages, 9.25 × 6.38 × 1.5 inPublished:March 7, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0451473388

ISBN - 13:9780451473387

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Customer Reviews of The Confessions Of Young Nero

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engaging and Interesting This was the first book I have read by this author so I had no idea what to expect, I was totally impressed by the amount of research that must have gone into this book. The story was engaging and interesting and I learned so much. I really enjoyed getting Nero's and Rome's thoughts on Boudica, so interesting. I will keep my eye out for the next book and other books by this author.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating read What was Emperor Nero really like? Was he as ruthless and murderous as history has said he was? Margaret George delves deep into history and breathes life into a man of legend? Margaret George has long been one of my favourite authors. Her books have always entertained me from start to finish and The Confessions of Young Nero is no exception. Although Nero never aspired to be as ruthless as Caligula or his mother Agrippa, he soon finds himself ascending the Roman throne. Alone he must learn whom to trust and whom to consider an enemy. This novel begins when he is a young boy and covers his life until early middle age. History has painted Nero as villainous and treacherous, however Margaret George has also provided a vision of his good qualities too, a difficult balance to strike against Ancient Rome's penchant for lurid sex, violence, brutal executions, and rampant poisonings, among a host of other vile vices. Like all biographical novels, not every chapter can be considered a gripper. Rather, I found the story to be a strong and steady climb to the ending, a reading journey that held my interest and fascinated me with an abundance of historical details. Another winning novel by a very talented author.
Date published: 2017-04-25

Read from the Book

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof*** Copyright © 2017 Margaret George Chapter ILocustaThis is not the first time I have been imprisoned. So I am hopeful that this is a sham and that the new emperor, Galba, will soon need my unique services and quietly send for me and once again I shall be treading the palace halls. I feel at home there, and why shouldn’t I? I have provided my timely services for those in power for many years.By trade I am a poisoner. There, why not say it? And not any old poisoner, but the acknowledged expert and leader in my profession. So many others want to be another Locusta, another me. So I founded an academy to pass on my knowledge and train the next generation, for Rome will always be in need of poisoners. I should lament that, should say what a pity that Rome must descend to that, but that would be hypocritical of me. Besides, I am not convinced that poison is not the best way to die. Think of all the other ways a person may die at the hands of Rome: being torn by beasts in the arena, being strangled in the Tullianum prison, and most insipid of all, being ordered to open your veins and bleed yourself to death, like a sacrificial animal. Bah. Give me a good poison anytime. Did not Cleopatra embrace the asp and its poison, leaving her beautiful and stretched out upon her couch?I first met the late emperor Nero when he was still a child, still Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, the name he was born with. I saw him at the low point in his life, when he was an abandoned child at the mercy of his uncle Caligula. (Now, that was someone who gave me a lively string of business!) His father was dead, his mother Agrippina had been banished when he was not even three years old, and his uncle liked to toy with him.I remember he was a likable child—well, he remained likable all his life; it was a gift—but timorous. Many things frightened him, especially loud noises and being sent for unexpectedly. Caligula had a habit of that—sending for people in the middle of the night. He once forced me to watch a nocturnal theatrical performance in the palace, featuring himself as Jupiter. Sometimes it was harmless, like the playacting; other times it ended with the death of the helpless person he had sent for. So, Nero—let us call him that to avoid confusion, just as I call Caligula Caligula rather than Gaius Caesar Germanicus—was precocious in recognizing the danger of the serpent in his uncle.Ah, such memories! Here in my cell I find myself returning to them, helping the hours to pass, until that moment when Galba sends for me with a task. I know he will! Chapter IINeroThe moon was round and full. It shone on the flat surface of the lake, which was also round, making it appear that the moon itself had expanded and enlarged itself there. It rose golden from the encircling hills but soon was a bright white ball high above.It illuminated the wide deck of the ship. I was to sit beside my uncle and listen to him intoning praise to the goddess Diana, whose sanctuary was on the shore of the lake and to whom the lake itself was sacred.I remember the flame of the torches that threw a flickering red light on the faces around me, in contrast to the clear bluish-white moonlight bathing the wider scene. My uncle’s face looked not like a human’s but like a demon’s, with a burning hue.These are all impressions, memories that swirl without being attached to anything. The reflection on the water—the torches—the thin, reedy voice of my uncle—the nervous laughter around me—the chill in the air—I was only three years old, so it is no wonder my memories are disconnected.Then his face shoved up into mine, his silky voice saying, “What shall I do with the bitch’s whelp?”More nervous laughter. His rough hands grabbed my shoulders and hauled me up, my legs dangling helplessly.“I shall sacrifice him to the goddess!” He strode over to the rail and held me over the rippling water. I can still see the undulation of the reflected moonlight, waiting for me. “She wants a human sacrifice, and what more worthy than this kin of mine, descendant of the divine Augustus? Only the best for Diana, and perhaps a propitiation for the lapse of Augustus, who preferred to worship her brother Apollo. There you go!”And I was flung out over the water, landing with a splash, cold, cold, and I sank, unable to swim or even cry out. Then strong hands grasped me, pulled me mercifully out of the water, and I could breathe. I was hauled onto the deck, where my uncle stood, hands on hips, laughing.“Better luck next time, eh, Chaerea? You are too softhearted, to rescue such flotsam. Anything born of my sister can come to no good.”

Bookclub Guide

Questions for DiscussionAugustus, a canny politician and great statesman, was unable to solve the basic dilemma of disguising the empire as a republic. It was part of Roman civic pride that they had banished kings—Julius Caesar was assassinated for behaving like a king—but in truth the Republic was not structured to govern what was now an empire.So the fiction had to be maintained that the emperor was really just the first citizen. That meant the Romans could not openly have a dynasty and there was no clear line of succession—hence every man for himself in securing the throne. In an atmosphere like that, there were no holds barred in battling for supremacy. So ruthless was this process that by the time of Nero’s death, there were no descendants of Augustus left alive, and the entire dynasty ended. 1. What if Nero had refused to compete for the crown? Could he have had a quiet life and pursued his art in peace? Later in life, he expressed the idea that he could support himself by his art if he were deposed. Was that at all realistic? Or just another of his romantic dreams?2. Two living emperors (Caligula and Claudius) are in the book, and the earlier ones are a constant psychological presence. What effect does Nero’s awareness of his lineage and of the expectation that he live up to it have on him from an early age?3. Nero’s descent from Augustus meant that he was always in a spotlight but at the same time obscure, as there were many other descendants of Augustus. In the book he says, “I was, as always, solitary and singled out.” He was both watched and ignored. What did he do in response to this?4. There were rumors that Nero and his mother had an incestuous relationship, instigated by her as a means of controlling him. Of all the forms of incest, mother-son is the rarest. But it is the easiest to conceal, because mothers normally lavish affection on their children, including physical affection. In what ways do you see Agrippina’s seductive behavior affecting him in the novel?5. How would you sum up Nero’s feelings toward his mother? Was the matricide at all justified? At what level? Political or psychological?6. Did Nero really have no choice but to go along with Agrippina’s plans to murder Claudius so he could become emperor? What if he had refused?7. Murder abounded in Nero’s family, but in the novel he wants to think he is different. At the same time, he fears he isn’t. Is there such a thing as “the blood of murderers” that is inherited?8. There were four important women in Nero’s life: his mother; his first love, Acte; his first wife, Octavia; and his second wife, Poppaea. With the exception of Octavia, who was his arranged-marriage wife, the others were all older than he was and very strong characters. Acte and Poppaea he was madly in love with. Was he seeking a mother figure/surrogate in the older, beautiful, and strong-willed women he loved?9. Nero was a romantic about marriage and exotic adventure. In what ways was this his undoing?10. Nero was only sixteen when he became emperor and held supreme power in many spheres. At an age when people now just become eligible to drive and are too young to serve in the military, he commanded the entire Roman army and empire. Considering this, how well did he perform? It has been observed that Nero and Oscar Wilde had much in common. Both believed that life should be a work of art and that aesthetics was the most important aspect of living. Both, too, treated life and sexuality as theater. Because of this viewpoint, both came to a bad end, although the things they practiced are tolerated, if not condoned, today. Oscar Wilde’s quip as he passed through customs (“I have nothing to declare but my genius!”) and Nero’s last words (“What an artist dies in me!”) are very similar. 1. From his childhood on, Nero showed an interest in art and music. His earliest tutor, Paris, was an actor, and music was part of his education. How much influence do you think Paris had on him, teaching him at an influential age? Do you think art became a refuge for Nero, his private sanctuary when he needed to escape his role as emperor and his family’s machinations?2. Two of Nero’s outstanding passions—his love of Greece and his love of athletics—must have come from somewhere, although both are un-Roman. The Romans thought Greece was effete and athletics for its own sake a waste of time. Why do you think Nero was drawn to both? Could it have been because of his early tutors, who were Greek? Was it his way of carving out his own identity?3. As part of his Greek mania, Nero seemed obsessed by the story of Troy. He composed an epic about it, making Paris the hero. Paris was banished from Troy as a child because of a prophecy; as an adult, he was mocked for fighting with arrows from a distance rather than at close range with a sword like traditional epic heroes. Did Nero identify with Paris because Paris did not follow the pattern of epic heroes and was an outsider?4. Nero was born right around the same time of year as the Saturnalia. It seemed to be his special holiday, where rules were suspended and people went about in disguise. He showed an early attraction to costumes, change of identity, and pageantry, and to rule breaking. What do you think inspired this behavior?5. At times, Nero seemed to be several people, and he was aware of this when he said there was the daylight, dutiful Augustan Nero, the artist Nero, and the dark Nero who did dark deeds. He thought of them as separate entities rather than as facets of the same person. Was this his way of avoiding admitting the dark Nero was just as truly himself as the other ones?6. One historian says the history of Nero’s reign was the attempt to “break boundaries.” In what ways did he do this in his personal and political life?7. To be an emperor was to have supreme power over many things, but that in itself precluded anyone being truly honest with Nero. It also meant that there could be no true competition because no one could beat the emperor. What did this mean to his deep need to measure himself as an artist and an athlete?

Editorial Reviews

PRAISE FOR THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO “George’s reconstruction of the man, in terms both of his public life and private character, is more than a revisiting of fact: It’s a subtle exploration of identity and the insidious effects of power...‘Confessions’ is all about identity: How is it made, lost, reinvented?...Margaret George occupies that blurry space between history and fiction. And between Tacitus and Margaret George, I rather think it’s George’s account that is not only most sympathetic but most truthful.”—Diana Gabaldon, Washington Post  “Margaret George has performed about the most audacious act imaginable for a historical novelist—an epic work of fiction not merely sympathetic to Nero, but told largely in his own voice. I applaud. And so, I imagine, does that connoisseur of the arts Nero, watching from Elysium.”—Steven Saylor, author of Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome   “[George] brilliantly recreates past eras and bygone civilizations.”—Sharon Kay Penman, author of A King’s Ransom  “A wonderful novel, from the riveting first scene to the breathtaking finale.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Traitors and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker   “Wow! Margaret George—the reigning queen of historical fiction—is back with this epic saga that vividly re-imagines the life of young Nero in all its operatic, dramatic glory.”—Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of Lily of the Nile   "Margaret George has an incredible talent in that she can stand in the shoes of her protagonist and speak in his or her voice.”—Barbara Taylor Bradford, author of The Cavendon Luck and A Woman Of Substance