2010: 59. I, Claudius

“I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles), was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as ‘Claudius the Idiot,’ or ‘That Claudius,’ or ‘Claudius the Stammerer,’ or ‘Clau-Clau-Claudius,’ or at best as ‘Poor Uncle Claudius’…”

I, Claudius, Robert Graves

        I have read I, Claudius a number of times, and always really enjoyed - defended it against my father, who found it impenetrable, etc.  And I recently picked it up while on vacation, to re-read it as part of my “read and blog about all the Modern Library Top 100 novels” project, and honestly, I found it a little boring.  Are my tastes changing? Could it be because I was reading an old Penguin copy with little teeny print? Could it be that I, Claudius does not really bear four+ times re-reading? I don’t know.  All I know is that historically, I’ve really enjoyed this book, and this time I couldn’t help but feel that it dragged on, and on, with much repetition.

           It is, as you probably know, historical fiction, telling the story of the Roman Emperors from Augustus through (SPOILER) Claudius himself, and all the attendant scheming, murder, and death that got him there. It’s a pretty good tale, with a fantastic villain in the person of Augustus’ wife, Livia.  And Clau-Clau-Claudius is a wonderful narrator.  He’s been born palsied, and everyone thinks he’s an idiot, so even though he’s a member of the Imperial family, and in the midst of things, they discount him completely - what better reporter could you find? It’s just that the book does go on, a tiny bit.  After a while there is a lot of murders and treachery and debauchery and evil emperors, and I felt like I was reading the same stuff over and over again.  But I think I’m just cranky, because it’s a really pretty good read and if you want to learn about the Romans in a reasonably accurate fashion*, but with lots of sex and death thrown in, you will probably enjoy it.   


*At least, Wikipedia suggests that the history is reasonably good, and that’s enough for me. 

Date/Place Completed:  August 2010; D.C.

Categories:  Re-Read, Fiction, Modern Library Top 100

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017