I, Claudius Hardcover – Nov 18 1976
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Having never seen the famous 1970s television series based on Graves' historical novel of ancient Rome and being generally uneducated about matters both ancient and Roman, I wasn't prepared for such an engaging book. But it's a ripping good read, this fictional autobiography set in the Roman Empire's days of glory and decadence. As a history lesson, it's fabulous; as a novel it's also wonderful. Best is Claudius himself, the stutterer who let everyone think he was an idiot (to avoid getting poisoned) but who reveals himself in the narrative to be a wry and likable observer. His story continues in Claudius the God. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
* Makes a ripping yarn. The Guardian --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is truley marvelous and succeeds perfectly in retelling an ancient tale. And as a plus, I am now extremly knowledgeable on this time of history after reading this book.
It's by no means a bad book, but I found that Robert Graves' cold historical voice kept me at a distance emotionally from the story and characters. Graves relates the story in a "first this happened, then that happened" kind of way, which has the benefit of explaining the history surrounding Claudius's rise to Roman Emperor in a clear and non-convoluted way. However, Graves' approach to the story also succeeds in keeping the reader uninvolved in the proceedings, because characters never become alive, but instead remain as about as engaging as the people you read about in high school history books.
In short, I would recommend this book if you're in the mood for a plot-driven novel---and believe me, there's plenty of plot to sink your teeth into.
But if you're in the mood to wrap your mind around fully developed characters and psychological complexity, I would read something besides this.
It is not particularly well written. How for example can Claudius report word for word conversations that were held hundreds of kilometers away?
Also, the characters' psychology is poorly developed and inconsistent. Why for instance would Livia suddenly decide to confide her wrongdoings to Claudius whom she has always despised?
Though not graphic by today's standards, violence is so pervasive throughout the work that it becomes tedious.
To potential readers interested in an analogous approach to Roman Antiquity, Marguerite Yourcenar's `Memoirs of Hadrian' constitutes a far superior option.
I did not like this book at all.
I would have much preferred the author just write a nice, deep, rich biography or even a third-person historical novel, perhaps with footnotes or indexed research notes. The first-person mechanism is highly overused, to the point of abuse. There appears to have been a great deal of research that went into this book, but because of the tone and style, the reader cannot determine or make an assessment as to whether the material is fact or fiction, or merely self-serving attempts to appear clever. The heavy-handed overused literary device severely detracts from the good qualities of the book, which are: good story, interesting historical period, insight into times and lifestyles of long ago, and occasional easy flow of language.
This is one book I would not recommend.
Graves, who is a true literary giant in his own right, colorfully fills in the blanks of the historical Roman record. Whether his interpretations of events are factual or not is left up for debate, but the genius of his narrative through Claudius is not. You'll need to draw a map of how all the various characters are related since marriage, divorce and adoption within the same family is rampant. Claudius' grandmother Livia is a real force whose product ends up being the sordid reign of Caligula. Augustus and Tiberius are "interesting" in their own way, and the stories attached to each Ceaser's reign or one part tragic and 10 parts black comedy. That Claudius is able to survive by playing the embicile shows his true genius. Can't want to see what the DVDs have in store!
Most recent customer reviews
A revealing work and very captivating. I found it hard at first to keep track of the names but Robert Graves constructed the story so cleverly that I soon felt like a family... Read morePublished on July 4 2013 by Faded Blue
Usually I hate historical fiction preferring my history to be history and fiction to be fiction, but this book confounded me because I loved it. Read morePublished on June 8 2004 by Patricia Graham
I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius is an account of the life of Tiberius Claudius and, as the title has stated in a self-explanatory manner, is written in the... Read morePublished on June 1 2004 by Matthew M. Yau
Not the same book as everyone else, I guess. My entire book club had the same experience- we had to skip this month's meeting because none of us could get through this book. Read morePublished on May 26 2004
Never dull (amazingly) -- brilliant, fast-paced and deliciously scandalous. Exactly the sort of book to get a reluctant/apprehensive reader interested in the classics(...)Published on May 14 2004
***One of the TWO best books I read in 2003***
My favorite author, George R. R. Martin, recommended this book on his website, so I grabbed the audiobook off the shelf at the... Read more
While Robert Graves' second story on Emperor Claudius, called 'Claudius the God', is full of historical facts, this tale is not as trustworthy. Read morePublished on Dec 23 2003 by hjonkers