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!
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?
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.
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.
Angela S. (Hartland, MI)
I am Livia
Most books have some faults that one can point out in a review and still credit the book as being enjoyable. However, in my opinion, there were no faults to critique in this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it all. If you enjoy historical fiction, and especially early Roman life, then I Am Livia is a great book to pick up. I appreciated that the book is from a female perspective, in a male dominated society. This book espouses the many qualities that are timeless and the difficult choices we all must make. There is political intrigue, scandal, sex, love, honor, trust, forgiveness and the yearning for independence and equality that women of all times and ages have in common. Very well done!
Barbara E. (Rockville, MD)
I am Livia
I really enjoyed this historical fiction. It was well researched and well-written and provided a very interesting woman's view of life and politics in Ancient Rome. It is a good rebuttal to the portrayal of Livia in I, Claudius, though I must admit the completely malignant and totally amoral Livia in Graves' book is a tad more interesting than the faithful, intelligent and kind-hearted woman who is much closer to the historical record. Phyllis Smith's Livia isn't lacking in spirit, loyalty or ambition, though, and is still a compelling and interesting character. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in good historical fiction dealing with the early years of the Augustan Age and the influence of his wife, Livia.
Judy B. (Santa Fe, NM)
This is a well-written, accurate history of Augusta Caesar (as he became known) and his wife Livia Drusilla. I did a some research on my own and the novel is a truthful telling of this period of Rome's history as told from Livia's viewpoint. I chose this book because I am a historian and very interested in ancient history and I am also a woman's rights activist.......and Livia is certainly one! I think the author did a fine job in developing the characters in the story, telling the love story of the two main characters and the history of the period. The story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra was a side story and also accurately told, although I did not know that Caesar Augustus's sister was married to Marc Antony prior to the Cleopatra episode and in the end divorced Antony, another first for women. I truly enjoyed this book and read it in 2 1/2 days. I would highly recommend it!