Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend us your ears: don't miss the first book, I, Claudius.
©1962 Robert Graves; (P)1987 Recorded Books
"This book, with or without its predecessor, is amusing and illuminating to a high degree." (The New York Times)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I, Claudius and Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina are two of the greatest novels of historical fiction EVER. Probably the only writers who come close to Grave's mastery of history and literature are (in no particular order): Gore Vidal (Lincoln, Burr, etc), Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies) and Norman Mailer (The Executioner's Song, Harlot's Ghost).
Obviously, Shakespeare is the master of historical fiction/drama but he is so obviously the deified king of this that the Shakespearian 'sun needs no inscription to distinguish him from darkness'.
Grave's dilogy must be intimidating to a historian of Imperial Rome. The personality of Claudius has been so deeply set by Graves that I'm not sure any tweaking by modern historians will be able to fool with Grave's fool. The Genius of 'I, Claudius' and 'Glaudius the God' is derived from Graves' ability to create such an amazingly rich and deep literary character. The closest I've come across in recent times is Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell. Books like these are rare and seem to grow more amazing with each year.
This is really I Claudius, Vol II. The story continues. The story moves like that of a good novel. The history is good to learn while enjoying a good read. You realize from reading between the lines and from comparing to what historians believe that this account is quite biased toward Claudius. But, this is after all written in the form of an autobiography, so what would you expect? The subplot of Herod is an interesting one.
The books makes a fine sequel to "I, Claudius," which I've already reviewed as being excellent. If you enjoyed that book, then you will obviously enjoy this fine piece of historical fiction.
This is a fictional autobiography of Claudius, fourth emperor of the Roman Empire. It is a narration of those events which transpired after Claudius became emperor. He has survived the reigns of the expedient Augustus, the perverse Tiberius, and the insane Caligula, where few others in his line have. But how long can he survive his wives?
Claudius is a sympathetic emperor and the narrator is entirely believable as Claudius himself. Attached to the end of this audiobook are readings from translations of Suetonius, Tacitus, and Cassius Dio regarding the death of Claudius as well as all that remains of Seneca's Apocolocyntosis. The translations are somewhat stilted but provide an interesting contrast between Graves' depiction of Claudius and those of the Roman Senators.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I suppose there was no way Graves could have not written this given the success of the first book and the sense of having broken off in the middle. From the great BBC miniseries, this was the part I best remembered and looked forward to. Somehow the magic wasn't there for me. No longer the observant outsider, Claudius seems reduced to a more pedantic reciting of events. Most of the colorful characters from the first book are dead by now. There's still plenty of intrigue, but Claudius is now the victim of a good deal of it and unable to relate it with the same perspective as when he was just passing on gossip. The naive wonder and delight of the first book is replaced by a kind of gloomy poignancy. Still, I wouldn't have skipped this for the world; not after having read the first one.
It is among my top ten
The eponymous Claudius who as the narrator takes us into the privileged but often fatal household of the Julio-Claudian Imperial family.
Claudius' dunking in the Rhone during the reign of Caligula
Yes, but I really couldn't manage it
I really enjoyed this novel. I did keep forgetting that it was fiction. It is easy to do that with both novels. Before thinking you learned something, look it up, it may just be the Author's imagination. That isn't a flaw as long as your remember this is Historical Fiction based historical characters.
In this follow up to the masterpiece I, Claudius, we go through the subsequent history of Claudius as he was essentially appointed Emperor of Rome by the Praetorian Guards. Claudius is apparently the one person in Rome who didn't want to become Emperor. However, the political class in Rome had already been yoked to the loss of the Republic and no one actually had the guts to stand up and say no. The only message from the Senate was one asking him not to take the title until they had voted to give it to him.
Claudius had survived his murderous kin by always staying in the background and acting the idiot. However, he turned out to be a very conscientious and capable ruler. He completed two new aqueducts into the city of Rome and under his personal command the Island of Britain was actually brought into the Roman Empire. Although Julius Caesar had visited the place, Claudius conquered it and began the Romanization process which lasted for almost 400 years.
A lot of the story is how his wife Messalina plotted behind his back, slept with practically everyone in Rome, and eventually launched a comically absurd coup against him. Claudius eventually realized that if the Romans were to have their Republic back, they would need to be ruled by the completely incompetent. Thus he appointed his grand nephew Nero to be his successor, and once this was done his niece (who he had married) had him assassinated.
Robert Graves continues his masterful storytelling with this historical novel. Of course, this one seems a little smaller than I, Claudius because it focuses on the one person and his actions, but this is certainly a great addition to anyone's library.
Where did they get this narrator? He could not have been more ill-suited for the role. Voicing a Roman emperor, even one who was an awkward, half-crippled misfit, calls for a modicum of gravitas. This narrator sounds like some guy named Bill from Cleveland or Indianapolis.
I listened to the audiobook of "I, Claudius" and loved the story and the narrator, so I was looking forward to "Claudius the God." Foolishly, I assumed that the narrator of the latter, if not the same person, would be of similar quality, so I didn't listen to the audio sample before purchasing the audiobook. Learn from my mistake.
A consistent continuation of the story. Great detail and excellent characterization. A fitting second volume.
I had to work a bit to get into this one but I don't know much about Roman history. This was a great intro. Runger did a stand up job, very solid. On to the sequel.
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