My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Caecilia is the daughter of a Roman patrician and plebeian, in the century just after Rome ejected its last king and became a Republic. She is unable to be considered an aristocrat yet too noble to be simply one of the people. As a Roman girl, she is subject to the authority of the patriarch of her family. Growing up knowing only cold harshness, Caecilia seems still to be immersed in all the stolid and somber traditions and mores of her Roman upbringing. So when she is given in political marriage to a man from Etruscan Veii, part of the League with which Rome is often in armed conflict, Caecilia is unsure how to fit in with the much freer ways of Etruscan domestic, social and political life. She is also unsure whether or not her husband truly loves her or is haunted by the past.
The Etruscan culture is fascinating by itself–more so when it stands alongside that of the Roman culture of the same time. Too more disparate cultures living so close together could not be more intriguing. It is refreshing to see a fictionalized account of how both cultures might have dealt with each other, in a way more personal and day-to-day than Livy’s history might indicate. Caecilia is an engaging heroine–although it was more frustrating than not, reading page after page where all she did was vex at the depravity, as she viewed it, of the Etruscans, without any respite (e.g. her taking a trip to the farm area to see the land, or perhaps even demonstrate one aspect of her Roman heritage that might serve to bring both cultures more together.) It occasionally felt galling to read her too-constant whining and slapping at her new Etruscan family; she seemed almost too fraught with self-righteousness, certainly at the outset. Hard to believe that in those early stages a Roman woman would have been quite so apt to defend a Roman life about which she must have known so little.
But perhaps even that weakness is more a product of Rome vs everyone else. Hopefully E. Storrs will venture again and often into the world of Etruria and bring more characters to life.