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The Uncertain Hour

A Novel

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


A.D. 66: Having been falsely implicated in a plot to assassinate the emperor Nero, Titus Petronius has a choice: await the executioner at dawn, or die a noble Roman death by his own hand. Deciding that his will be a suicide like no other the world has ever seen, he summons a small circle of intimate friends to his magnificent villa on the enchanting Tyrrhenian coast of southern Italy. There, over the course of a balmy autumn's night, Petronius throws the party of a lifetime. As they feast on course after course of the most sumptuous and exotic fare the empire has to offer, his guests are expressly forbidden to dwell on the imminent tragedy; instead, they are enjoined to sing, eat, drink, and celebrate. But as his life dwindles to a few precious hours, Petronius himself cannot shake off the ghosts of his past or his regret over mistakes that can no longer be set right. With the fateful dawn approaching, he recalls the great love affair of his life, and his years as Nero's "Arbiter of Elegance." Not until the very end will he bequeath his magnum opus, The Satyricon, to posterity.

Exquisitely written and profoundly moving, The Uncertain Hour is a vivid portrait of life in ancient Rome and a gripping entrée into the mind of a great man during his final hours.


"Lush and sorrowful...splendid...lusciously described... gorgeous."-The New York Observer

"The Uncertain Hour
is that very rare thing - a historical novel of love and ideas not only free of pedantry, but also serious and entertaining. Browner has done a fine and meticulous job borrowing from the actual "Satyricon" dishes for Petronius' lovingly described last supper...a rewarding new novel."-Los Angeles Times

From Publishers Weekly

26 February 2007 – This engaging historical novel opens in A.D. 66, with Roman aristocrat Titus Petronius planning his suicide. Emperor Nero has falsely implicated him in an assassination plot, and the high-born Petronius prefers suicide to dishonor. Setting his affairs in order, he organizes an elaborate banquet for his close friends before he retires to his quarters to open his veins. Between sumptuous courses, elevated conversation and bawdy verse, Petronius muses on his past, and philosophical reflections on the meaning of life accompany a string of flashbacks, many of which detail the former governor's romance with a centurion's wife, Melissa Silia. Reviewing his career, Petronius realizes more attention to his mistress and less to the temptations of ambition would have avoided this disaster. Meanwhile, at the banquet, the grief of a young friend who cannot accept Petronius's refusal to flee to safety threatens to spoil the mood. Browner (Turn Away) has done his homework, and his meticulous description of a Roman banquet and its attendant rituals, as well as his account of first-century Roman politics, letters and even clothing styles, is immediately immersive. Browner creates with considerable skill a snapshot of Roman life and death.
The Uncertain Hour
View in iTunes
  • $8.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: 15 January 2011
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Seller: INscribe Digital
  • Print Length: 224 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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