A must for anyone working on any aspect of Roman religion or politics.
It will also interest students of comparative politics, religion, and anthropology. Cornell, University College, London.
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View Inside. In Lands, Laws, and Gods , Daniel Gargola examines the formulation and implementation of laws regulating the use of public lands, including the establishment of colonies, in Republican Rome B. During this period of territorial expansion, the Romans developed the basic legal forms by which they governed captured land, and they constructed the processes and ceremonies by which those forms were translated into practice.
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But this is not journalism, and the novel raises questions about how imagination and research coexist. In its most moving chapter, McEwan throws away all his legal notes as Fiona, in an independent move, heads off to visit Adam in a hospital wittily likened to "a modern airport.
What can you do with a theology degree?
With altered destinations. When Adam plays his beginner's violin and Fiona sings by his hospital bed, the feeling is of freedom. The warmth of the scene arises partly, one supposes, out of the coldness of Fiona's domestic affairs. And the sad song speaks to everyone.
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It's a scene that is a triumph of imagination over research. The portrait of Fiona's marriage is also hugely enjoyable.
Not a detail escapes McEwan. Even the way a cup of coffee is steered across a table can be telling: a peace offering. They have no children but take "multi-generational holidays in the cheaper sort of castle". Jack is a year-old bohemian academic who goes barefoot in summer.
At one point he is described as having "padded in for an argument" which made me laugh aloud. Fiona sees herself as being "in the infancy of old age".
She knows Antony and Cleopatra off by heart, having played Enobarbus as a law student in an amateur production in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and her crisp comments on her rival, a year-old statistician, have something of Cleopatra's dismissive concision "Dull of tongue, and dwarfish". Her rival is "a silent young woman with heavy amber beads and a taste for the kind of stilettos that could wreck an old wooden floor".
Any potential for more extensive damage needs no further spelling out. Fiona's unhappy private life serves as a helplessly ironic subtext to her professional decisions.
She remarks that there is "no denying the relief at being delivered on to the neutral ground, the treeless heath of other peoples' problems". And it's one of the achievements of the novel that it never confines itself to a single unhappiness, but fans outwards into collective family sorrow.
Fiona comes to this conclusion: "Kindness, the Family Division daily proved, was the essential human ingredient. He keeps us tensely guessing — everything hingeing on Fiona's decision about the boy. And it will not spoil the plot to say that this is a novel which, above all, considers what it might mean to be saved — and not in the queasy sense in which Jehovah's witnesses have claimed the word. Fiction reviews. Reuse this content.