In Book Reviews on January 12, 2014 at 6:00 am
Canongate Books Ltd 1995

Canongate Books Ltd 1995

Nutshell blurb: This is the story of Hannibal’s life from his childhood to his death featuring his all-consuming hatred of Rome.

I don’t know much about Hannibal so this was a pretty interesting read. I actually love reading historical novels about historical figures I know nothing about because it inspires me to want to read some non-fiction about them. I much prefer to read the fiction before the non-fiction otherwise I’ll sit there and think “that’s not really what happened”.

Be advised, if you intend to read this, that you shouldn’t do so if things aren’t going well in your life or if you’re taking anti-depressants as this book is brutal.

The thing I found most interesting is that it’s told in first-person and feels like a journal kept by Hannibal. He’s telling us about his life. We get really close to him and we’re in his head. He’s a very sympathetic character. However, he tells us of all of these horrible things he’s done or ordered to be done and it’s difficult to read sometimes. I really wanted to not like him but I couldn’t help it. So serious points to Mr. Leckie for making a cold-blooded barbarian likable.

To illustrate my point (SPOILER ALERT!!!), Hannibal couldn’t understand some of the main faults of human nature such as the need to get drunk or to have a lot of women or to overindulge in food. He thought that these things dulled the mind and made a person weak. He loved his wife and live monogamously with her (according to the story. Not sure about real life) and included her in his plans for battle. She actively helped him in the camp. She tended to his soldiers’ wounds and helped with cooking the meals. She traveled with him whilst being hugely pregnant on his trek through the alps to invade Rome. Their relationship was very loving and sweet.

Yet, the other side of him was dark and brutal. At one point, he lined up some Roman women who were pregnant and had their babies cut out in retribution for a heinous act that some Roman soldiers committed. He wanted to take down Rome and lost everything he had trying to do so.

A LOT of innocents were slaughtered in this book. Actually, a lot of people were slaughtered regardless of who they were. We never get really close to them as Hannibal narrates this story in a very detached way. It makes it slightly more bearable but it was still difficult to read in some places.

It didn’t make me want to put it down, however, which is usually what happens if a book gets a bit too much for me. The characters were really interesting and it was a compelling read. I enjoyed it, but I probably won’t pick up other books by this author.

  1. I learned of Hannibal from watching some documentaries on the History Channel before they joined the “Reality TV” bandwagon. The non fiction account of Hannibal paints him not as a cruel Barbarian, but bold defender of his city against imperial Rome and a master General/tactician.

    Back in the day Rome and Carthage were the two superpowers vying for dominance and Rome was just as brutal/savage as any of their adversaries. It’s interesting that the author is portraying Hannibal in such a dark light.

    • Actually, that was what made me like this book. He seemed like a good guy but his actions were sometimes appalling. The Romans were just as bad but they were kept at a distance in this story. I don’t think that the author was painting him in a dark light, I think that the brutality was just a way of life back then but having lived a sheltered life sometimes makes these things difficult to read.

      • The thing is all the historical accounts I’ve seen and read about portray Hannibal as a man of honor against Roman brutality. He was depicted as a person who could be merciless on the battlefield but never the type of man who would kill civilians or pregnant women, especially is such a brutal manner. This is why I believe the author is creating a much darker image of him. I would be truly surprised if that account were true since the documentaries I’ve seen have him in a brighter more patriotic light trying to convince other cities/villages to turn from imperial Rome and join his cause against the “evil” empire.

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