Review: Hannibal by Ross Leckie

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

'Hannibal' by Ross Leckie

Hannibal by Ross Leckie

Canongate Books 2008
Paperback, 243 pages
ISBN: 1847670997

This is a nasty book. If you're expecting to read about Hannibal the famous general, Hannibal who crossed the Alps and gave the Romans the thrashing they deserved, forget it. This is Hannibal the man, one who doesn't care how many die in his pursuit of the revenge-wish he inherited from his father. He takes his wife and newborn baby through the alpine ice and snow, and then butchers some Roman women because the baby dies (the death is the Romans' fault--parse that one if you can).

Of course, there's also his good side--after his wife is brutally raped and killed by the Romans, he forbids his troops to rape. If you're thinking he's a mess of contradictions, then yes, he is--and it's not helped by the first person narrative giving the illusion of an insight into his motivations and character that isn't really there. Sometimes, Hannibal, who's writing this narrative as an old man in the expectation of imminent capture, feels the need to justify his actions. Othertimes, even such insufficient justification is lacking. The book would probably have worked better in third person, or with a different narrator, as it isn't able to get under Hannibal's skin and explain how his mind works.

At certain points in this book, I had to stop reading because what was portrayed was so viciously and needlessly cruel. In fiction it would be bad enough; in a novel based on true events, it's unbearable.

The book's well written, evokes the violence convincingly, is crammed with period detail, and has elephants. Excellent for those with strong stomachs. Not so good for sensitive souls.

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posted by Debbie

7 comments; 0 subscribers

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 / 14:04:00
To win the review copy of Hannibal, tell us in comments what companion you'd take with you on your journey across the Alps--animal, vegetable or mineral!

Contest open to UK/EU residents only. Closing date is 4th April (midnight pacific time).
Tuesday, March 4, 2008 / 16:37:49
William Shatner...I'd take William Shatner...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 / 04:09:45
I'd take a Saint Bernard. They make excellent pathfinders, are good-natured, and well...there was this story I read when I was a kid, it was about a Saint Bernard who rescued a boy who got lost in the snow. Since then, I've always had a soft spot for these dogs.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 / 16:18:57
A jar of Grey Popoun, and only a jar of Gray Poupon. That way, when my journeying is done, and the mountains conquered, other people can look back and say, “There's the man who braved the Alps with nothing more than a jar of Grey Poupon!” It might not be the world's greatest claim, but it will be a claim, that's guaranteed.
Saturday, April 5, 2008 / 02:16:27
And the Hannibal winner is...drumroll please...selected at random from the valid entries...more drumroll...thanks, that's enough....


Friday, April 11, 2008 / 08:59:23
Oh wow! I won, I won! I just got the book and I'm really looking forward to reading the book. (Rochita who normally doesn't win stuff like this.)
Monday, April 28, 2008 / 18:33:07
I'm a young man from Tunisia, I live in Tunis which today stands on the ruins of the old Carthage, the richest city of the world by that time. As you know, Hannibal is undoubtfully one of the greatest military commanders of history.He's a national pride , a part of my country's history, such as the old mosques where we pray and the ancient Roman theatres that hold concerts... I heard and read a lot about his life, He's the man who stood against the Roman Empire, a member of the Barca family who would deserve a trilogy of movies (as complex as Starwars) .
That is why I was excited about that outcoming movie about him, then pepole especially in the USA would know a different signifiaction of the name Hannibal, than Hannibal Lecter, the bloody killer.. But actually after reading the reviews (the valuable ones), seems to me that Hannibal is represented in this novel as much more cruel !!
Not only this book seems to be a total historical disaster (because of many inaccuracies), but it also seems to have taken from Hannibal much of his charachter : intelligence, political skills and wisdom...Transforming him into a cold blooded killer, a raper and a "vampire" !! I mean, even for those who hear about Hannibal for the first time, how could the beleive that a general could last more than 20 years in ennemi territory killing and raping and satisfying some psychotic need of revenge ??
Hannibal's sucess was only based on intelligent manoeuvers and alliances ,as many Roman statements have proved it, and the fear he inspired the Romans was as a result of the immense threat he represented for the Roman Republic. For the scpetic ones, here's an extrait of a resarch i found by LTC James Parker of the US Amry (appearing on :
"The Carthaginian strategy for the 2d Punic War was neither a war of annihilation nor initially a war of attrition. Hannibal stated, “I am not carrying on a war of extermination against the Romans. I am contending for honor and empire.” Hannibal openly disclaimed pursuing a war of annihilation in his treaty with Phillip V of Macedon. Hannibal obviously envisioned a Rome existing after the war."
Finally, I hope that the movie will be as different as possible from that poor novel and from that awful movie that's been made about Troya ..

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