CONSPIRATA. My friend Cadie Robertson sent me this review in the New York Times by Frank Bruni of Robert Harris’s CONSPIRATA, which she knew I was reading. It’s a very good historical novel about Cicero and his struggle against the conspiracy of the aristocrat Catalina to seize power in Rome. Harris created great suspense for me even though I still recall vividly studying Cicero’s orations against Catiline (as we called him) in Latin class over 50 years ago. Historical fiction seems to have an advantage over history in that alternative outcomes seem more plausible. Catiline’s coup d’etat might have succeeded. As for the review, I found it jolly that a New York Times reviewer would poke so much fun at Roman names: “[Harris] lets the characters’ names, a great many of which end in the same two letters, bear the brunt of establishing a bygone era. The reader meets Pompeius and Pomptinus, Roscius and Rabirius, Servius and Sulpicius and — my favorite — Valerius Flaccus, whose name sounds like an ailment so embarrassing you’re loath to tell even your doctor about it.”

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