The Silver Branch (The Roman Britain Trilogy)

by Rosemary Sutcliff

Paperback, 1993

Status

Available

Local notes

PB Sut

Barcode

1703

Publication

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (1993), Edition: Reprint, 240 pages

Description

A young Roman army medical officer, sent to Britain during the period of waning Roman rule, befriends a kinsman with whom he shares an adventure of intrigue, exile, and underground activity with the Lost Ninth Legion.

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

1957

Physical description

240 p.; 5.21 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
I do so love oldish first editions, former library hardcovers published in the 50s and still sturdy, with lovely thick pages and a general sense that the words printed on the page are actually worthy of being there. I don't know what it is but there's something so wholesome about such books. My
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copy of Rosemary Sutcliff's The Silver Branch is one such, an honorable old edition dignified in its share of library stamps and heavy with a promising weight.

The Silver Branch is the second in the Dolphin Ring Cycle and picks up more than a century after the events of The Eagle of the Ninth. Rome still holds Britain, but the hold is tenuous as Rome's power has already begun to disintegrate. Justin, a young military surgeon, is posted to the Roman town Rutupiae to serve under Emperor Carausius. Soon Justin and his kinsman Flavius happen upon a plot by Carausius's treasurer, Allectus, to overthrow the emperor. But when he hears of it, Carausius only sends them away to an even more dismal assignment in the British backwaters. How can they warn an emperor who won't even believe them?

Sutcliff's characters are wonderful, as usual. Justin is very believable as a stuttering young man who has honest fears and carries the bitter knowledge of having disappointed his father on several levels. Flavius is much more the hero type, but Justin is the focus and though the story is told in the third person omniscient, it's Justin's thoughts we follow. The secondary characters are also skillfully drawn: Aunt Honoria with her no-nonsense courage, Flavius's old nurse Volumnia, Evicatos of the Spear, and the one I've always remembered from my childhood reading: fussy, fastidious, soft Paulinus who willingly lays down his life for his friends.

The silver branch of the title refers to a musical instrument played by Carausius's Hound, the court fool Cullen, and crystallizes the idea of beauty created from chaos. I love this description of its music:

"Then, very quietly, and clearly for his own pleasure, he began to play—if playing it could be called, for there was no tune, only single notes, falling now soft, now clear, as he flicked each silver apple with knuckle or nail; single notes that seemed to fall from a great height like shining drops distilled out of the emptiness, each perfect in itself" (29).

Profound and beautifully rendered, Rosemary Sutcliff's work is the standard for historical fiction.
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LibraryThing member c.egan
The Silver Branch is a masterpiece among Sutcliffe's vivid portraits of past times. The novel is set in the years when, more than ever, usurpers threatened to split the Roman Empire, and barbarian nations to invade it.

The gripping story of two young soldiers' adventures deals with loyalty and
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betrayal, courage and humility. It is also a quiet hymn on the natural beauty of Britain and a melancholy look back on the civilisation and peace that Rome had brought, before "the lights go out".

A subtle connection between The Eagle of the Ninth and the Silver Branch makes them span the history of Roman Britain from its height to its decline. This is, however, not a children's story; the language would be too poetic and sophisticated for children under twelve or thirteen.

Christina Egan
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LibraryThing member bell7
When Justin, a Surgeon in the Eagles of Rome, is sent to Britain, he doesn't know what to expect. He soon finds a kinsman, Flavius, with whom he becomes fast friends. They uncover a possible plot against the Caesar Carausius, and attempting to warn him changes their lives forever.

This is the second
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of Rosemary Sutcliff's books that I've read, the second chronologically and third published in the Dolphin Ring series. Justin and Flavius are both related to a character from the previous book, and a key symbol from the first book returns as well. Sutcliff uses descriptive prose to carefully include historical details that add to the realistic feel of the book without ever packing in her research in a heavy-handed manner. The plot is impossible to describe; you get the feeling reading that she won't show you all her cards to the end, and then you'll know what it's all about. I do wish that I could have better understood the characters and their motivations, and I became annoyed with how often various occurrences or items in the story were referred to as "the thing." As in The Eagle of the Ninth, I felt that the dialog was a bit stilted. But when the book was in my hands, I still wanted to see where the story was going and kept reading to find out what would happen to Justin and Flavius.
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LibraryThing member gibbon
Set in the time when the Roman overlordship of Britain was already being assailed by barbarian Saxons and rival emperors were struggling for power. A fine book for literate children and adults approaching their second childhood; though it underplays some of the grosser and more brutal elements of
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Roman domination it is nevertheless as true an account as we are likely to get of the family life and experiences of young men from distant lands transplanted to an island then on the edge of the civilised world.
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LibraryThing member antiquary
Not quite as much my favorite as Eagle of the Ninth --in the nature of things it is less triumphant, since it is set in later Roman Britain when local usurpers are pulling away from the central Roman Empire. The story is rather sympathetic to Carausius, the capable first usurper, but paints
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Allectus who killed Caurausius as the villain, and has the young heroes cooperate with the Caesar Constantius (father of Constantine the Great) in overthrowing Allectus on behalf of the Roman central government..
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is loosely a sequel to the author's more famous novel Eagle of the Ninth, that is the eagle of the famous lost Roman legion that disappeared in northern Britain (I was prompted to read this after last week's Doctor Who episode offered a possible explanation for its disappearance). This sequel
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takes place a century and a half or so later, and concerns a descendant of the finder of the lost eagle, Flavius and his friend Justin. At a period when the Roman Empire has become too big to be ruled by one man, they uncover a plot to usurp the "little" Emperor Carausius in Britain, a plot led by the latter's chief adviser Allectus. This story has a good narrative drive and is as well written as its predecessor. One anachronism: during an idle moment some characters play chess, which had not yet been invented.
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LibraryThing member quondame
The adventures of two young roman Britons in the legions of the short term emperor Catausius. The narrative skips over all the year and a half as a sort of underground movement to spend it's time on highlights of meetings and battles, the actual sole purpose of which seems to be to get the eagle
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from its previous storage place to the basilica at Calleva/Silchester.
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LibraryThing member Marypo
If I had to point out one aspect of this book that earned it a five-star rating, it would definitely be the friendship between Flavius and Justin. From the moment they met they were inseparable, and they were stationed together, fought together, and suffered together. I think I could get away with
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calling them brothers.
That last battle scene about got me. The imagery was intense, the losses steep, and the reader watched helplessly. Actually, now that I think about it, that could be said for the whole book. There's so much packed into these 175 pages, and rarely a quiet moment.
And then there's Paulinus. Paulinus, who recruited our intrepid boys, died in their place, and left them his position to continue helping escaped soldiers, gladiators, you name it. He was such a great character, and shaped Justin and Flavius in so many ways.
Be aware that the various gods the Romans worshiped are mentioned from time to time, and there are some violent scenes, because of the time period and subject matter of tyranny, respectively.
And yes, I would definitely recommend this. Yes, yes,yes! I don't know why I didn't read this sooner.
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LibraryThing member Marypo
If I had to point out one aspect of this book that earned it a five-star rating, it would definitely be the friendship between Flavius and Justin. From the moment they met they were inseparable, and they were stationed together, fought together, and suffered together. I think I could get away with
Show More
calling them brothers.
That last battle scene about got me. The imagery was intense, the losses steep, and the reader watched helplessly. Actually, now that I think about it, that could be said for the whole book. There's so much packed into these 175 pages, and rarely a quiet moment.
And then there's Paulinus. Paulinus, who recruited our intrepid boys, died in their place, and left them his position to continue helping escaped soldiers, gladiators, you name it. He was such a great character, and shaped Justin and Flavius in so many ways.
Be aware that the various gods the Romans worshiped are mentioned from time to time, and there are some violent scenes, because of the time period and subject matter of tyranny, respectively.
And yes, I would definitely recommend this. Yes, yes,yes! I don't know why I didn't read this sooner.
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LibraryThing member witchyrichy
The second book in Rosemary Sutcliff's Roman Britain series is set as Rome continues to struggle to keep its island nation even as the Saxons are bearing down on them. Two cousins barely escape as a traitor kills their leader and become part of the resistance. This book was of the same style as the
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first: honorable men fighting against those who would betray Rome. We meet their feisty aunt and her maid servant and other unusual characters. A rousing read!
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Pages

240

Rating

½ (146 ratings; 4)
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