Not being a huge fan of ancient history, it is unlikely that I would have picked this one up of my own choosing. I am, therefore, very grateful to whomever chose this book for the Historical Fiction Group. Truth be told, I put off reading this one, expecting it to be a bit of a slog; far from it! Written in the form of an autobiography, this novel takes the reader on a journey through the reigns of the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula, through the eyes of the humorous, quietly savvy, and thoroughly lovable Claudius. As I have not done a whole lot of reading on the emperors of Rome, I was pretty astonished by their conniving, greed, cruelty, and complete disregard for life. I would have to agree with those who say that this book is one of the best depictions of the society of Ancient Rome; I left I Claudius feeling as though I had been through a crash course in palace intrigue, alliance building (or switching at an opportune moment), and the importance of saying the right thing at the right time. Since I am not much of a scholar of the ancients, I did get rather a bit lost attempting to keep all the players and their relationships to one another straight-these fellows divorced and remarried (often a spouse they forced another to divorce first) with dizzying rapidity. Thankfully, a member of our group, Mara, kindly gave us the following link to a family tree, which is a great help to any reader of this excellent adventure through ancient Rome: http://www.historyinfilm.com/claudius/famtree3.htm
I look forward to continuing Claudius' story in Robert Graves' Claudius the God.