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Publishers Weekly (starred review): "Angela’s rigorous research and populist style, aided by Conti’s seamless translation, should fascinate casual readers as well as dedicated Italophiles."

Date: Jun 24 2009

Many books, documentaries and movies claim to chronicle daily life in ancient Rome, but it’s rare to find a narrative so encrusted in detail as this lively offering from an Italian author and television host. Adopting a first person plural voice, Angela takes us on an eagle-eyed tour of the ancient city on an “ordinary day” in the year A.D. 115. Serving as a Virgil-like guide, Angela begins in a Domus, an upper-class home, exploring its meticulous inner workings, from the aqueduct hook-up to the slave labor. Out in the streets, Angela provides a fascinating, nail-by-nail description of Roman construction before schooling readers in the particulars of buying slaves. Next up is a bloody scene at the Coliseum (featuring hungry lions and their worthy meal), and a steamy sunset tour of bedrooms, salons, and sexual mores; Romans viewed sex as “a gift of the gods,” something to enjoy, and would “judge our sexuality as excessively complicated… [by] mental complexes and roles.” Angela’s rigorous research and populist style, aided by Conti’s seamless translation, should fascinate casual readers as well as dedicated Italophiles. (June)