The Wedding Shroud: A Tale of Ancient Rome


Set in 406 BC in the Roman Empire, "The Wedding Shroud" explores the harsh realities of life in this time period, especially for women, through the eyes of Caecilia, the product of a patrician and plebeian union. To uphold a peace treaty between warring Rome and neighboring city Veii, Caecilia is given in marriage to Etruscan nobleman Vel Mastarna. Caught between two worlds, Caecilia has suffered much in her young life, making her a sympathetic heroine aside from her Roman superiority, prejudice, and sanctimoniousness. She constantly makes comparisons between Rome and Veii, damning the Etruscans for the very same behaviors that the Roman elite indulge in while failing to value the freedom, autonomy, and affection she has longed for and finally acquired. Mastarna is cold and angry, grieving the death of his wife and child. But he is unfailingly gentle, kind, and generous with Caecilia.

The description is detailed and vivid, drawing the reader into Ancient Rome, and contrasting the wealth, comfort, and vivacity of life in Veii with the disparity, suffering, and death in Rome. Aside from Rome itself, the primary characters could be better developed. Although Mastarna, Caecilia, and others are sympathetic, they are difficult to connect with.  Readers interested in historical fiction, politics, ancient religions, and Roman history should find this an entertaining read. Unfortunately, however, there is not much here for those who are not because the narrative is tedious, with slow pacing, and grating characters. 


Lacy Hill