I Am Livia: Book summary and reviews of I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

I Am Livia

By Phyllis T. Smith

I Am Livia
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2014,
    390 pages.

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Book Summary

Rome's maligned and adored first empress tells her own story. At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla becomes her father's chief political asset - later, her sharp intellect - and her heart - will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.

Her life would be marked by scandal and suspicion, worship and adoration…At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father's chief political asset - and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, "It is possible for a woman to influence public affairs," reminding Livia that - while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate - she must also remain patient and practical.

But patience and practicality disappear from Livia's mind when she meets Caesar's heir, Octavianus. At only eighteen, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia's family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect - and her heart - will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"This highly polished and compelling story of ancient Rome is told by Livia Drusilla, wife of Caesar Octavianus who defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium. ... Seamlessly written, this novel will appeal mightily to fans of historical fiction." - Publishers Weekly

"Smith's Livia is such a dynamic character, so approachably human, at times fearless and forceful but also merciful and just...The historical backdrop of Rome becomes more accessible, less academic, when seen through the lives of Smith's characters." - Historical Novels Review

"This book superbly mixes strongly developed, emotionally complex characters with well-researched accurate history. It humanizes historical figures that had, for me, just been names on a timeline. I can't recommend it highly enough." - Susan Coventry, author of The Queen's Daughter

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Linda M. (Lititz, PA)
I Am Livia
I found this book very interesting but it took me longer than normal to read it. I don't know if it was me or some of the areas to get over wordy and over dialogued about some subjects. I will never give up on a book and after reading through those areas it became interesting from a historical standpoint and some others I found rather humorous.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Edie M. (Kennett Square, PA)
I Am Livia
This book is the story of a girl who grew up before your eyes. She is a little too smart for her own good at times. Taking place during Ceaser, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. Sad at times but also inspiring. I liked this book because we vacationed in Italy this past summer and I could visualize some of the scenes. Great love story.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Nancy H. (Foster City, CA)
Completely drew me In
"I Am Livia" is one of the most enticing and satisfying first novels I've read. It kept me up most of the night and I postponed doing anything else this morning until I finished it. The author made it easy to appreciate the complexities facing the main characters; to identify with their struggles and motivations; and to appreciate when Livia and Tavius found their way forward together. I had little previous knowledge of the lives of these larger than life characters and appreciated the author's clear writing style that provided strong characterizations as well as a strong narrative. I'm planning to make this my next book club selection - it will definitely make for a lively discussion!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Tracy B. (New Castle, DE)
I am Livia
I always enjoy reading about the forgotten women in history. This book cover her life in a time of turmoil. The author took us into the mind of and intelligent and caring woman. It is my favorite way of learning about and remembering history.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Marianne S. (Ulysses, KS)
I Am Livia
As a fan of historical fiction, I enjoyed this book. Livia was the second wife of Caesar Augustus. I had never heard of her and knew very little about Ancient Rome. I learned a lot about both from this book. The author made the times come alive and described Livia's life clearly and in chronological order. It's important to me that a book be reasonably historically accurate, and I Am Livia seems to be so. However, if a reader doesn't like historical fiction, this book probably won't change his mind about the genre.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Vivian H. (Winchester, VA)
A Refreshing Perspective on Livia Drusilla
I Am Livia is a "must read" for anybody who loves well-researched historical fiction about fascinatingly strong women of history who lived in challenging times, achieved power and/or influence and deserved to be remembered for her own contributions and not just her association with a powerful man or family.

Livia Drusilla, wife of Caesar Augustus, mother and grandmother to future emperors, and daughter of a Claudii patrician who supported the assassination of Julius Caesar, recounts her life in a first person narrative beginning with her marriage at age 14 to a much older man, Tiberius Claudius Nero, through the civil wars that culminated with the death of Antony and Cleopatra, and the imagined relationship with Rome's First Citizen.

The narrative flows nicely and this is a fairly quick read. The author makes an effort to rehabilitate Livia's reputation as a power hungry woman who poisoned her enemies or family members that might conceivably vie for political control.

The only parts of the book that didn't resonate well with me were the depictions of Caesar as completely a besotted suitor and husband. The dialog felt awkward to me.

For those who hungrily devour stories of this historical period, loved the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough or stayed glued to the HBO series "ROME", this story is peopled with characters that feel like old friends.

...16 more reader reviews

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Phyllis T. Smith was born and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. After obtaining a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College and a master's degree from New York University, Phyllis pursued a practical career in computer applications training, yet found herself drawn to literature and art of the ancient world. I Am Livia is her first novel. She has another novel set in ancient Rome in the works.

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