Reviewed by David Maclaine
Pride of Carthage benefits from the high-level skills David Anthony Durham brings to the historical novel from his conventional “literary” background. The novel covers the full sweep of the long Second Punic War, from its beginning with Hannibal's decision to capture a city in Spain that claimed alliance with Rome, to the final confrontation at Zama between the great Carthaginian general and the latest general Rome had sent against him, Publius Cornelius Scipio. Durham tells the story from the viewpoint of an assortment of characters, including the major combatants as well as Hannibal's wife and sister, a cavalryman from a nation allied to Carthage and a camp follower of the army that invades Italy. The scene shifts back and forth with the action, from Spain, to the coast of Gaul, to Italy and to Africa. It's a big, multi-layered story, and Durham captures it all.
Pride of Carthage succeeds because the author has the literary novelist's great gift of bringing character to life. Readers can easily follow the shifts of perspective from the bloody aftermath of a battle in Italy, to the tension of the women waiting back in Carthage, and then to the mounting uncertainty of a general who begins to suspect that he's been outmaneuvered, because each time the viewpoint changes Durham places us in the mind of a distinct, acutely sketched personality. His descriptive skill is also of the highest order, and his mastery of emotional shading aptly tracks the mounting tragedy of a long, bloody war. This is a novel about ancient times told with the immediacy that make it feel far more real than most of the stories of violent death that blare in the daily news. (2005, 592 pages)More about Pride of Carthage at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository