Stothard’s artful blend of truth and fiction is the right device, as it was once for Tacitus and Seneca, to nail the absurdity of those times ... the parallels with Nero, however imperfect, are there to see: the solipsism, the numbness to advice, the inability to yield power gracefully ... Stothard’s poetically written, supremely stylish memoir only partly conceals its underlying mission, to insist that antiquity still has urgent things to tell us.
...the character who emerges most strongly in this wry, intriguing book is not the four Senecans, or even Thatcher, but Mr. Stothard himself ... Certainly there is a streak of poignancy, sometimes even melancholy, running through this thoughtful and unexpectedly moving memoir, but Mr. Stothard also brilliantly captures the excitement of the Thatcher years.
This is a twilight book, underscoring the evanescence of journalism and of strivings for fame, position and affection, a threnody for doomed ambition ... The style, finely descriptive, is often frustrating, exacerbated by Stothard’s recourse to self-deprecation, which though clearly genuine seems unnecessary in one who edited two famed papers with distinction. ... Stothard’s classicists give us glimpses of the character of the court; it feels like they could have told us more.