A PILLAR OF IRON by Taylor Caldwell


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One is impressed by the research (from 1947) which has gone into this novel, all of its subject's (Marcus Tullius Cicero) speeches and letters as ""well as hundreds of books, essays, manuscripts."" (Her shorter, earlier epic Dear and Glorious Physician had an even longer period of gestation.) One is bemused, however, by the dedication, to John F. Kennedy, Barry Goldwater and Senator Dodd, an uneasy trinity indeed. And one is truly nonplussed by the fact that she has spent nine years in writing this book. How could anyone who really writes so badly spend that long? For certainly the same criticisms, not ours, ""lavender logorrhea,"" ""interminable,"" ""prolix"" apply to the prose here which is in full fall coloring. Or as she would say ""There was not a color nor a tint nor a hue which did not flare in the seering (sic) sunlight."" Actually the whole book is encrusted with description. Once you get past the pounding oratory you can follow the moderate life and irrational times of the great man with some interest. As a boy in school Cicero incurred the enmity of Lucius Catalina which would last a lifetime; and, only a little older, he fell in love with Livia, a ""nymph"" met ""on forest paths...clothed in secrets immortal."" She was then ""betrothed to Catalina"" but Cicero would be haunted by her ""smiles and the touch of her leaf-like hand"" all through the years even after his loveless marriage to the competent Terentia. Cicero's career, as rising young lawyer, politician, orator; his friendship (""I have loved you as a younger brother"") with Caesar even though he has many reasons to mistrust him, later to oppose him; his final confrontation with Catalina and Catalina's death after a clashing armed assault; Caesar's assassination, then his own, proceed relentlessly. The period is there and so is the history; Pompey, Sulla, Brutus, Mark Antony, Roscius all drape their togas; and for many this old Roman will live ""his essence held within himself like perfumed oil in a vessel."" It is a market that will not be discouraged and can not be discounted.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1965
Publisher: Doubleday