I haven't found many historical novels which appeal to me from the Roman era. Maybe it was because this was told by a young woman. Starting from when she was in her teens and continuing into her 20s.
As a young girl Claudia had led a privileged life. One where she lives in the lap of luxury, loved by her family and slaves at her beck and call. It isn't long before she discovers that she has the gift of second sight.
Her dreams reveal many things. Warnings shown by images dictate some of the troubles which come her way. Sometimes proving too late when she doesn't understand their meanings.
Much to her roman parents disapproval Claudia becomes initiated into the House of Isis. A goddess of the egyptians. They expected to be a fleeting fancy of a teenager but are unaware of the fact that Claudia has visted the temple, Isenium, to plead with the Mystagogue asking him to help her make Pontius Pilate, a 27 year old rising star, love her.
She learns the hard way that no amount of spells can stop somebody from forming relationships with other people.
Even her dreams can betray her, despite her plea on a table passed to Pilate, it can't stop him from casting a decision of a man whose life is at stake. The story which is still famous now as what it was then.
This novel has been well written and shows the characters always in their different syles of personality. Never making them seem one dymensional.
Claudia, although seemingly at first driven by jealousy and envy, also comes across as loving, determined and courageous. Sometimes defying her husbands orders when she feels strongly about something.
The same goes for Pilate. Despite his slightly controlling nature, you know that he does love Claudia and is willing to see some sense on occassions. Listening to her points of view.
There are a few facts which I didn't know as well. For a start that Jesus's parents were appareantly wealthy people. And that he was supposedly married. Now this could just be part of the story and there's no proof whatsoever but it gave me something to think about.
Occassionally there are a few issues I had. The novel is packed with a wide variety fo characters. Making it at times confusing when trying to work out who is related to who. Which of them are friends and which are enemies. The good, the bad. I think in this case, less is more.
This was a good read and is worth taking a look at. Especially if you haven't read a book from the roman history. It challenges everything from love and lust, living or dieing, true loyalty and traitors.
It will cost you £6.99 from book shops buy online you can get it for £5.49 from Amazon-this is the paperback version.
While I enjoy historical fiction, I tend to stay around the English Medieval period so when I came across this book based in the era of Jesus I was intrigued enough to try it. As a Christian I am interested in different authors' interpretation's of the life and death of Jesus Christ and the opening of Claudia: Daughter of Rome pulled me completely into the story as it was a denial from Claudia herself that she had attended 'the crucifixion'. This falsely led me to think that the novel was going to be predominantly based around the circumstances leading to the death of Jesus, and I must admit to being a little miffed when I realised this is just one very small thread in this story that is basically the complaints and criticisms of a spoilt young Roman woman.
The novel is loosely based around the courtship of Pontius Pilate and his eventual wife, Claudia, who is the title character of the story. She is a strange soul, Claudia is never happy with her lot and when Pilate rebuffs her at the beginning of their relationship she seeks and administers a love potion which will bind him to her for always. The brave soldier becomes infatuated with Claudia but from the moment they marry things begin to go wrong for her; tragedy follows her and she seeks comfort from the Daughters of Isis, a much talked about and less than dignified cult that has sprung up.
Claudia has a gift, she has visions of the future and while they do not always make sense at the time they are usually accurate and she lives in fear of these visions as she is helpless to alter the paths of those she loves. Claudia is close to her mother and father who cherished her in a way that many girls' of this period were not, she was encouraged to marry for love rather than profit (as was the custom in those times) and even as an adult her mother endeavoured to help her climb socially and was always there to advise upon her behaviour.
The story is narrated in Claudia's own words, which was really the only way of doing it as for the novel to make sense we had to get utterly into the head of this fickle young woman. Claudia comes across initially as a kind girl with a generous spirit, she is also however very naive and acts rather impulsively for a woman of this time. This, I felt, should endear her to me as a reader but instead it annoyed me as her more reckless acts didn't seem in keeping with her overall character. She alternated between blissfully happy and suicidal and these changes in personality were so complete and fast that I occasionally had to back track a couple of pages to try and discovered what had brought them about.
Roman women were undoubtedly gossipy and very highly strung, yet Claudia seems to have a somewhat serene manner which is why I couldn't quite keep up with the trail of her emotions. She feels great pity for those who have been dealt a poor hand in life and does try to make changes to improve the lives of those beneath her, this is all rather half hearted though as her mind is obviously on more selfish issues that are facing her. In one breath she claims to adore her husband, yet in another she proclaims her love for an ex-gladiator and while this could come across as a dilemma facing women even modern times it doesn't quite ring true when coming from the thoughts of Claudia.
The character of Pilate was interesting. Most of us know him only for washing his hands of the fate of Christ, he has been vilified through the ages although he was in no way integral to the death of the messiah. What's happened is that the two names have become forever intertwined throughout history and this is exactly the point Claudia was trying to make within her musings about the man she loved and the man she felt represented all things good. She had only actually met Jesus once before the time leading up to his death, but in later years she began having increasingly frequent visions of this man in a crown of thorns and worried irrationally for his safety considering this was just one man out of many that were persecuted by the Romans.
This is, for me, when the book stumbled. These visions were just too convenient. I'm all for artistic licence, but Antoinette May used them far too much to further the story and it was blatantly obvious that when she couldn't find even a tenuous link to continue the tale she would simply conjure a vision up for Claudia. This happened on several occasions and I started to feel rather insulted as a reader that the author could not be bothered enough with her story to let it evolve naturally with a little imagination.
I suppose this is a minor irritation as the visions do not happen terribly often, although I was left with a sense of being cheated every time Claudia 'saw' something as I started to wonder whether the author was leading me or simply helping the story along.
There are several peripheral characters in Claudia: Daughter of Rome. Her parents feature fairly heavily in the book although we never learn anything earth shatteringly important about them, they simply serve to round out the character of Claudia in my opinion. This is cleverly done and the author resists the temptation of stereotyping them into traditional Roman family characters, the love both parents feel and show for Claudia reads as real and although she is regularly chastised she does retain enough freedom to be able to make her mistakes. Claudia has an older sister who is rather promiscuous, she is found in bed with the Emperor's heir and punished by being sent to join the Vestal Virgins who were a very strict breed of nun - a terrible punishment for a young girl in her first flush of sexuality, she rebels and her fate is truly saddening.
I did enjoy the story even though I appear to have picked it to pieces. It's written in a very easy to read style and the author has made an effort to keep unfamiliar words and phrases to a minimum which I appreciated greatly as I have very little knowledge of Roman history. I do wish the thread of Mary Magdalen and Jesus had been widened though, for me this was the main point of the story although I can quite understand the author leaving it as it was as presumably there is a fine line between a book based on the life of a particular character in history and a religious novel. While Daughter of Rome touches on religion, its emphasis is definitely on the relationships and emotions of the complex characters which I found slightly disappointing even though I am aware that being written this way means the story will appeal to a much wider readership.
You can buy a paperback copy of Claudia: Daughter of Rome from www.amazon.co.uk for £5.49 which I think is reasonable for such an engrossing and interesting story. Please do not let my observations put you off as this is not a bad story at all and any nit picking has been done from an entirely personal point of view, I shall certainly be looking out for more work from this author as I think she managed to encapsulate a difficult period in history perfectly.