“I am supposed to be an utter fool and the more I read the more of a fool they think me.”
― Robert Graves
Why I’m Reading this Book?
I’ve had this book so long in my digital library that I forgot why did I get it in first place. But it must be from time, when I was exploring kindle unlimited and unknowingly borrowed it. Yes, I borrowed it without knowing I’ve signed up for membership and have been paying for almost 6 months before realizing. So now that I’ve realized, it’s of utmost importance I read it. Not because, book is good and I want to but because I paid for it. Grrrrr….
Story is a historical fiction told by Roman Emperor Claudius in first person narrative. He describes the ups and downs, progress and corruption, customs and tradition and his ascent to the throne against all odds.
Claudius is such an interesting character of history that I’m amazed I’ve never heard of him. In Roman society where people worshiped masculinity, violence, power, winning, it was curious to see Claudius journey to the throne, since he was exact opposite of this celebrated image. He was a cripple since birth, he woulds stammer under pressure, due to these deficiencies he was never sent to any war and wasn’t considered a warrior. His own family (except few) despised him and considered him a fool. His only solace was reading, he was a voracious reader and amazing scholar. Throughout his life he kept publishing this book and that. It shows his dedication that even though no one would read it, he didn’t get discouraged and kept finding new subjects for his books.
Because of his physical limitations and him being considered as stuttering fool, he was never considered a threat. And in an environment where even infant would be put to death for their claim to throne, he was left alone. That was one of the major reason behind his success. What did seem as curse, was actually a blessing in disguise.
Besides the Claudius journey, this book explains in detail what happened from the reign of Augustus (Most successful) to the Caligula (Most violent). There are so many interesting characters in story. My favorite is Livia, wife of Augustus, who orchestrated so many conspiracies in her lifetime. She was a force to reckon with and everyone was afraid of her. In fact it’s hinted that she was the unofficial empress when she was alive.
At the same time, It was sometimes disheartening to see good people getting killed, but those were the violent times. And only one’s wit or connection could help them. Quick changes in monarchy will topple you tomorrow after heaping praise today. This book was a classic drama folding with so many layers and reader has to keep up with a lot.
One problem I initially had with story was that royal family was just too much into itself. They would marry within, marry twice , thrice. Moreover they would reuse the names. It was quite confusing initially. I had to make a family tree to understand the intricacies of these complex relationships. But once I got the hang of it, it was like watching Spartacus.
When I started this book, I did because I borrowed it accidentally, but now I’ve added next book in series (Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina) willingly, because I want to see how did Claudius fare.
This is an amazing book, which describes in exquisite details about Roman civilization. There are so many stories within stories that one can never get bored of. A unique take on history. A very good read indeed.
My Rating — 4
On the scale of: (1- Hate , 2- Neither like nor dislike, 3- Like, 4- Love, 5- Gaga)
Why anyone else should read this Book?
Book is not small, it’s 400+ pages, but once you know the characters, it’s a fast read. It’s not a boring history with dates ,centuries and unnecessary references to throw a reader off. I think if I was alive in those times, royal family would serve the purpose of a soap opera.
If you appreciate an underdog , this book is for you. Claudius , though quite brainy, was never a suitable candidate for being a king, but it happened and its real. It made me feel happy for him. Read to get that happy feeling.
If you like suspense, thriller, drama, read this. It has all these flavors.
You can also read to appreciate current life value. Old times were very cruel to a life. People kept getting killed at the drop of a hat. It’s a good thing we are only reading about them and are not in between them.
Try the book, get acquainted with Claudius and Roman civilization and do let me know how did you like him.
Wear the mask, Stay home, Stay Safe!!!
Have you read it? Are you planning to? What is your opinion? Share them here. Till next time, Happy Reading Folks!!!