Yolanda M. (Boise, ID)
Great Period Novel
I picked up this book fully expecting a story that would enter the world of ancient Italy. What I didn't expect was to be thrown into a story without major introduction. This tale doesn't need one. From page one the characters, especially Livia and her father, are fully fleshed out, three dimensional people. Livia is a very strong teen and woman and I was constantly awed by her steel reserve to do what needed to be done. Though pretty much given away by her father to an older man in a political agreement, she spends very little time whining and a substantial amount of time working with what she has to create a life within boundaries that would choke a modern teen/young woman. The environment was finely done and I was especially pleased that the author let me picture Livia's world rather then spending pages belaboring it. It took me about 4 hours to read and I found myself, because it was written in first person, truly inhabiting Livia's mind and understanding her spirit. The two characters not completely drawn are her mother and sister, and I have to say that it seemed to fit their actions very well. Neither seemed to touch either Livia's world in an earth shaking way ... almost like they were lying in the river of the life they'd been handed rather than standing up in the current.
The author at times took a little liberty with the golden boy, Caesar, and I was disappointed that he turned out to be no better than any other man, but forgave him much as Livia chose to. Had she chosen not to, I would have done the same thing as well.
As the novel moved from gritty street to palatial hill, and from the noisy city of intrigue and back-stabbing to the countryside, it was easy to hear the sounds in each. The tensions between the characters and the tensions of the time are what kept me up until 2 in the morning. Women and children as victims of war were a recurring theme and the helplessness they dealt with every day is still echoed today and I found myself wanting to rescue everyone. But Livia, strong (and flawed) woman that she was, wouldn't take pity from anyone. She had a will that brought her through. And, she was wily. I admired that!
The book finished beautifully not with happy ever after so much as the way life probably really is. This woman had lived a very full life, had been heard, had lead and been led. Honor killings, court intrigue, men raging and women being wicked, hard headed men and strong women ... who could not enjoy this?
Patricia L. (Seward, AK)
Roman Peyton Place
I am Livia is historical fiction set amid the dramas of the Roman Empire. Livia Drusilla reflects on her part in "saving Rome." From her life as a very young wife and mother to her involvement with Caesar Octavianus, son of Julius Caesar, Livia's remembrances reveal her as an anomaly to the stereotypical females of that era. Her story is interesting at best but the pace is slow. Recommended for only those who have an unquenchable thirst for early Roman soap opera.
Elizabeth L. (Salem, OR)
Piqued My Interest
I wasn't very knowledgeable about this period of time so I found this book quite enjoyable in that aspect. I would have enjoyed more discussion of the larger societal and political changes but I can see that that might not be consistent with the point of view of the narrator. As to the main character, the intelligent woman chafing at her prescribed role isn't particularly groundbreaking in historical fiction but it was well done.
Theresa R. (Sierra Madre, CA)
I love historical fiction and was looking forward to reading this and I was not disappointed. The author had me hooked from the beginning with the way she described the characters and locations. I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Elizabeth L. (Beavercreek, OH)
A New Voice in Historical Fiction
Ancient Rome is not an era I normally read but Ms. Smith brought it to life beautifully. The background seemed well researched and the characters felt authentic to the time period. It is a serious irritation to me when authors use inappropriate modern colloquialisms in their writing and there was little if any of that in this book. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Smith.
Susan B. (Rutledge, MO)
Interesting, if you like ancient times
I love reading about ancient times, have a special fascination with ancient Rome, and like reading women's stories (especially in societies where inequality is so much worse than our own), so I was predisposed to like this book.
I found the writing to be serviceable, of the fairly prosaic "here's what happened next" variety, but as what happened to the narrator in her long life was fascinating to me, I didn't need breathtaking writing.
I refused to look up the actual historical person this is based on until after I finished, and I'm glad I did, as this is a different take on her that I found refreshing in retrospect.
Laura G. (Buffalo, NY)
A fun way to learn about ancient Roman times
I thoroughly enjoyed reading I Am Livia, by Phyllis T. Smith. Learning about ancient history through novels is always fun. This book really kept my interest as the narrator spoke honestly about Livia and other characters' strengths and weaknesses. It was a love story that depicted love and marriage in that time period, both of the wealthy and the common folk. I particularly liked that the author did not get too descriptive about sexuality but rather alluded to things and left it up to the reader's imagination. That is all that is necessary in most cases. I have already recommended this book to friends.