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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important…

Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man

by Peter Vansittart

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I was captivated by this fascinating and unusual novel, written in the author's inimitable, polished, and sophisticated style. It recounts the events of one momentous year in British history: AD367, the year of the 'Barbarian Conspiracy' and the years following. Drusus, a Gaul who has settled in Britain and become a wealthy and respected tradesman, narrates.

Drusus has penned his memoirs, emphasizing the 'Barbarian Conspiracy' and its aftermath, until his last days, living in penury in Milan. In this 'Conspiracy', Scots and Attacotti from Hibernia; Scanians; Saxons; Jutes invade Britain leaving a wake of destruction. Also, bands of bacaudes plague the countryside and upset the balance of society. The bacaudes are deserters from the military, runaway slaves, thieves, bandits, the landless, and other disaffected people. Count Theodosius arrives from Gaul, bringing with him Magnus Maximus [called in Drusus's words that man ]. Barbarians are defeated at London; after the victory, Theodosius and Magnus Maximus exchange roses--one white, one red. I thought immediately of 'War of the Roses'; to me, this symbolized the impending struggle for power of the two men. Theodosius plans to 'reconquer' Britain. Drusus is charged with restoring trade. However, Drusus talks Magnus Maximus into usurpation of power. The stars of both men quickly rise, then fall just as rapidly. For a short time Magnus Maximus declares himself Emperor of Britain, Gaul, and Germania. We can imagine Drusus's bitterness in his writing: although Magnus Maximus fell, the name of Macsen [as the British tribes call him], will live forever in song and story and the name of Drusus will pass into obscurity.

I loved the author's style: acerbic, sardonic, cynical: no one or nothing was safe from the attacks of his pen, not even the most 'sacred cows'. Often it made me think of The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary of Ambrose Bierce or of the witticisms of Oscar Wilde. I loved such aphorisms as "Human behaviour is easy to change, human nature is not." I also enjoyed Drusus's surreal fever dream, to me a portent of future events. The characters were very well drawn, but I was close only to Drusus, egotistical though he was. It might help to know a little British history of this period; things can be obscure for non-British. The novel starts slow, probably because the author is setting up the story, but gains momentum. Very highly recommended!(less) ( )
1 vote janerawoof | Dec 18, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0720606020, Hardcover)

Focuses on one of the most momentous years in the history of Britain. In A.D. 367 the order and stability of the Roman Empire was threatened by a barbarian invasion. For the narrator, Drusus, the events of 367 and their aftermath determined not only the future of his country, but also of his life. Wonderful...a haunting, many-coloured dream of murderous splendour, an evocation of the past which no other historical novelist...could rival."" - The Spectator.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:01 -0400)

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