As a lifelong fan of the brilliant 1970’s BBC series I, Claudius, I have always thought of Livia, (wife of the first Roman Emperor Augustus) and played by the incomparable Welsh actress Sian Phillips, as one of the most fascinating and complex women in history. So I was very excited when I came across this book. But in this book Livia is just plain bland. Awarded two stars on Goodreads.
There’s no great depth to her character, to her thinking, or to the dramatic story of the beginning of the Roman Empire.
According to THIS novel she is NOT the deeply ambitious woman who poisons enough people to ensure her son becomes emperor. She’s simply her husband’s loving and chief helpmate. Even the dialog is dull and trite.
I much prefer the Livia of the original Robert Graves books on which the series, I Claudius, was based. Now there’s an intelligent woman who knew how to wield power.
Think of this book as a mildly interesting prequel if you want to know the story of Livia’s early life and how she and Augustus met and married. As long as you don’t really care that the book is not very well written.
More about the author, Phyllis T. Smith.