Peek Into the Mind of Julius Caesar in “The October Horse”
Colleen McCullough’s sumptuous historical fiction novel The October Horse: A Novel of Caesar and Cleopatra is the sixth book in her Masters of Rome series, but unlike authors such as Margaret George or Karen Essex, the story is told from Julius Caesar’s point of view. The October Horse allows you to peek inside the head of the world’s most enigmatic dictator, and McCullough’s meticulous dialogue brings the world of the Roman Republic to life in vibrant colors.
As he grows older, Caesar is worried about who will inherit his throne. Despite some of the awful things he’s done that lingers on in the historical record, McCullough succeeds in humanizing the mighty ruler. His quirks, accomplishments, and foibles are on display to the point that, when Caesar is murdered by the men he called friends in the Forum, you’ll surprisingly feel an odd sense of loss.
However, if you’re a fan of Cleopatra VII, this novel is not for you. Her relationship with Caesar is cold and calculating, and she comes off as very co-dependent and a bit of a dimwit, which runs contrary to the historical record. After all, the Queen ruled Egypt from the age of 18 to 39 and there’s proof that she was very bright; she even spoke several different languages, too.
Despite the character assassination of Cleopatra, McCullough brings Julius Caesar to life with ease and her writing will suck you into the tangled web of ancient Roman politics.