Caesar, Cicero & Cleopatra – What Really Happened

Arthur J. Paone
Belmar Publications (2014)
ISBN: 9780974636696

Reviewed by F.T. Donereau for Rebecca’s Reads (11/14)

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Perhaps the best thing Author Arthur J. Paone has done in his Novel, “Caesar, Cicero & Cleopatra,” is to render the historical piece in straight forward prose, using language pertinent to today's world. This allows the reader to experience the whole, thrilling story in an accessible manner. Do not misunderstand me though, straightforward and accessible do not mean dulled or without strength, at least not in this case. Mr. Paone has great command of his sentences; they are not unnecessarily adorned, and because they arrive chiseled and clean, they build near perfect paragraphs, sending the story forward with envious precision.

Using a clever introduction, Paone brings the story of “Caesar, Cicero & Cleopatra” forward as if Mr. Paone himself were a Latin teacher forced into retirement, one who subsequently moves to Rome and discovers a magnitude of scrolls from the time of Caesar. From there the author sets off running, bringing us immediately into the ancient world of that long fallen empire, its intrigues wide open at the start, capturing the novels audience without delay. The vivid quality of the prose made this reviewer fall right in line, living the old world scenes as if they were something out of a contemporary story. One of my favorite things in literature is to be laid down in a society that no longer exists, and feel every inch of it. Mr. Paone wholly succeeds in this. 

Everything of the story is here in this work. The writer has managed to adhere to a great many known facts about subjects that are, in fact, greatly known (through books, movies, documentaries, text books). Astonishingly, Paone has been able to mix in fiction, blending it, one might say integrating it, so concisely with historical truths that it lands as one reality, an honest account. It is not a dry read, but a swift creek of Machiavellian desires, and lustful maneuverings, is all the more to his credit. Best for me was when Cleopatra and Caesar came together. In these passages you get the mind of the characters, their love and friendship, the spirit of each intellect, as well as the plotting they had to undertake to gain what they wanted. The Chinese element knocked me out: how the world conspires, lusts for power, how long the arms of danger can be. Cicero comes across as a weak character, though he is not weakly drawn; you want to be put off by his presence, until you realize you are reacting to a succinct sketch, that he is striking your sensibilities exactly as wanted, that Paone is in complete control of everything on the page, that you are meant to dislike him.

“Caesar, Cicero & Cleopatra” is enriched by character study. It is also a lesson in historical fact. As well, it is a pounding tale of war and political upheaval. Behind the scenes has been cracked open and exposed. Caesar battling at the Nile and elsewhere has the flavor of the horror of war. At the same time, you want to be with him, to be a part of the action, the strategizing, bringing you in. That is Arthur Paone's great accomplishment. If you want to live ancient Rome, the lives of the player's, Cleopatra, Caesar, et al, the world of Egypt, Alexandria, to really sink down and know it, this novel is the place to be. The clean writing allows all to enter. The well paced, fact laden story, makes it all unforgettable.