The Boat of Fate by Keith Roberts (ROMAN FICTION)

May 2011
Nr. Bristol, UK
I was pointed in the direction of this excellent book by a member of staff in a bookshop. It was recommended to me as the best Roman historical fiction novel the man had ever read. While I won't give The Boat of Fate that title, because The Eagle of The Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff has that honour, I will afford it a place in the top three. In my opinion, it's a crying shame that it isn't better known.

This book is astonishingly well written, and details the life of Sergius Paullus, an Iberian Roman whose life spans the last years in the western Roman Empire, when men such as Theodosius ruled, and generals like Stilicho fought to save the last parts of the formerly great empire from destruction. Sergius, an angry and troubled young man, wanders from Iberia to Rome, takes service with the army in Gaul and is then sent to Britain, where he is intimately involved in the last struggle after the legions left in 410 AD. The prose wears its historical detail very lightly, yet conjures a wonderfully intense image of Rome and its empire. I couldn't put it down.

It's a book which has only recently come back in to print, and I sincerely hope that a large publisher takes it on board and rejackets it, because it would sell in large numbers. In its current incarnation, that is unlikely, unfortunately.

Take a chance, buy this book. I guarantee that after the first chapter you'll be hooked. It's a fantastic read.