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I Am Livia  By  cover art

I Am Livia

By: Phyllis T. Smith
Narrated by: Joyce Bean
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Publisher's Summary

Her life would be marked by scandal and suspicion, worship and adoration.…

At the tender age of 14, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father’s chief political asset - and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, "It is possible for a woman to influence public affairs," reminding Livia that - while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate - she must also remain patient and practical.

But patience and practicality disappear from Livia’s mind when she meets Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. At only 18, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia’s family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect - and her heart - will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice - one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.

©2013 Phyllis T. Smith (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

What listeners say about I Am Livia

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

If you loved I, CLAUDIUS. You'll love this book!

I'm a huge fan of I, Cladius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves. So, when I heard about this book, I was really excited.
It is written in the same manner as Robert Graves' books. But, this time Livia gets her say.
GREAT BOOK! I recommend it to all historical fiction fans.

8 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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I wanted to like it

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No, the two hours I spent with this book are lost forever.

What didn’t you like about Joyce Bean’s performance?

The narration is a performance, not a reading. Children's voices are squeaky, men's voices are gravelly, and the narrator's voice is flat. There's a weird pause before "he said" or "I replied" almost every time (probably so the reader can adjust her voice). There's a strange rhythmic pattern to the sentences: two are read on a rising tone, one on a falling tone, and one is flat. Rinse and repeat.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Depending on the casting, yes I would.

Any additional comments?

I wanted to like this, I really did. But after two hours, I knew It was a waste of time.

7 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Shallow, dull.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

This might be good for a 13 year old girl who wants a romance with a little history thrown in to give it a plot and motives for the characters. The book covers only her life at about 15, and then pretty much ends after a few years of being Empress with Octavian. Insipid characterizations. No feeling of being in Rome.

What was most disappointing about Phyllis T. Smith’s story?

How shallow Livia and Octavian are. Like 16 year olds.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

It was all right, given the material.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from I Am Livia?

So much with her first husband and her very early years with Octavius, with no development of her subsequent life where, indeed, lots of people died who interfered with her.

Any additional comments?

No.

5 people found this helpful

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Why couldn't I have learned like this in school?

I loved every moment of this audiobook. Because of this book, at 40 years old I have gained an intense and renewed thirst for Historical knowledge. Phillis Smith uniquely empathizes with Livia Drusilla's character gives candid yet historically accurate accounts of some of the most important events to shape the world. This book left me wanting more. More knowledge of who history and even prehistory.

2 people found this helpful

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Wonderful book . . .

Wonderfully written. Beautifully narrated. I spent a couple of hours studying the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, which greatly added to my understanding and enjoyment of I Am Livia., for her story plays a central role during this important transitional period of Rome's history. But don't get me wrong. Although it greatly enhanced this void is my historical knowledge, that isn't why I chose to read it. I chose it for the book's promise of being a fascinating read about real lives sometimes caught up in what seemed unresolvable human dilemmas. And the author and narrator could not have done a better job in keeping this promise.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Good story, bad narration

Is there anything you would change about this book?

For one thing, I'd have had her call him Octavian instead of "Caesar," by which most people understand Julius. Later she could haveAlso, much of the writing is overblown, but it may seem worse than it really is because of the narration.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

I thought it was good.

How could the performance have been better?

How could it have been worse? Narration stilted, other voices (women, children, men) annoying, but worst of all, too many mispronunciations of places and personal names. Didn't anybody look anything up?

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

yes, but I'm a pushover for Roman costumers.

Any additional comments?

Interesting portrait of what it's like to be married to a complicated alpha male. Also enjoyed Livia's friendships with other women, including Octavia. Fictional first-person narrative that corrects bad press the first Roman empress has been saddled with (she wasn't bossy, she was savvy; they weren't poisons, they were medicines) makes a good read that would have been better with tighter writing. I kept wanting footnotes (difficult in audio, of course), or at least an epilogue about the sources, but historical fiction does impose a willing suspension of disbelief.

1 person found this helpful

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Helps you see Lucia from a different perspective

Although this was a work of fiction, I appreciated how this book helps humanise Livia. She’s often portrayed as quite cold, but reading as she navigates hardship during her youth as a young bride and mother as she flees Rome, helps you picture her differently. Hearing her struggle with infertility, and the pressures to reproduce, so that Tativius may have an heir shines a different light on a female that is often vilified (as many strong women were and are still). Negative portrayals and depictions of her are different than those cast on others such as Cleopatra though, so I appreciated the help this novel provided in seeing her and acts attributed to her differently.

The narrator grew on me with time, but initially I wasn’t a fan. Over time her range as Livia aged, reflected on the past, etc., was appreciated and added to the telling of the story.

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Great characters of the History

I have read this book twice. I already did a review the first time I read it, and now I think it deserves other words. The second time I read this book, I enjoyed it more because I could find my favourite scenes and profound knowledge of their personalities.
This extraordinaire story is about the life of Octavius Agustus, a Roman Emperor, adopted son of Julius Cesar. After Julius Cesar's assassination, he ruled the Empire, and his wife, Livia Drusilla, named "Mother of Rome". Both characters were born to change History, living, loving and suffering as Patricians. Meanwhile, they gave peace to the Roman people and improved their lives with progress, art and culture.
Livia's initiatives emerging from her feminist soul and Octavius's struggle for peace and progress made them deserve the title of Augustus and Augusta of Rome.
They loved each other from the first time they encountered until their death.

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Wonderful story

The book did such a good job of conveying the conflicting emotions and also the cleverness of a girl in a male-dominated world. It was a pleasant surprise that there was some historical accuracy regarding ancient rome and the characters that played the part. A wonderful romance that tugged at your heartstrings. My only gripe was that at the beginning of the book, the narrator seemed to unnaturally talk in a very deep voice, to maybe emphasize that the heroine was telling the story in her old age. But later on, she does a great job of playing with voices and her narration becomes less strained. Stick with it, it gets so much better.

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A treat of Roman historical fiction

A wonderful book from the point of view of the voiceless in history. Livia has always fascinated me and Augustus is such a complex character to describe but both come to life with their strengths and flaws.

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  • Ratatoskr
  • 07-26-15

Read the book instead

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I hated the voice of the narrator. At times it sounded like a computer-generated voice. The accent annoyed me, too.

What didn’t you like about Joyce Bean’s performance?

Her reading was robotic and, at times, too fast. She 'over-acted' the dialogue.

Any additional comments?

I was about a third through the book when I was offered a free trial of Audible, so I chose the same book to listen to. I could barely listen to a page. It was awful. It was far more enjoyable without the distraction of such a coarse voice. All I can add is please, don't let this put you off the book.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Aimee
  • 01-02-16

nice, but a little hollywood/generic

the narrator of this one kind of annoyed me with her slightly gravelly voice, and strange pauses. the story itself was simple but a bit unbalanced in terms of timeline, and perspective (Cleopatra was a ruthless seductress blah blah blah). Not much charisma to the character, but was relatively easy to listen to.