Reviewed by DK Marley
''Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.''
Mary Ann Bernal is to be congratulated in presenting this impressive and daunting work to the reader! She has seized a truly chaotic and complex period of history, so crucial for all that was to come in the fortunes of Imperial Rome and, indeed. for subsequent history, by the scruff of the neck. Out of all the confusion, she has licked a wonderful narrative into shape! Given the truly chaotic segment of important history she has selected for her novel, this is no small achievement!
In a moving and multi stranded drama that incorporates so much, Mary Ann Bernal presents the reader, for example, with a truly 'ear at the door' view of the secretive early Christian Church and of all its travails. She reveals a clear view and understanding of the Rome of the time in minute and moving detail, and the everyday preoccupations and aspirations and fears of ordinary people, revealing painstaking research The author relates with clarity, and movingly, the various issues and complications of people in love in truly difficult circumstances; their very moods and preoccupations.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of ''Forgiving Nero'' is the task, that many other historians have found so daunting, of weaving this truly confused and convoluted passage of history into a single and meaningful sequence of events whilst at the same time putting all too real flesh onto these historical, and often diabolical, figures. Above all, we have the figure of Nero! In the hands of the writer, we are presented with a figure, so beguiling and charming in childhood and in early youth, transformed into a creature of monstrous depravity capable of truly despicable acts; a being seized by perhaps a hereditary madness and doomed to a bitter end.
“Forgiving Nero” by Mary Ann Bernal receives 5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award