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“Best of” 2012?

I am still digesting Gore Vidal’s Creation; I will write about it soon.

As everyone else is doing the same, I will add my small contribution the the extensive dearth of the “best of the year” lists.  Despite the fact that 2012 is not yet over, I know.  But as this time of the year is usually too busy for me to read more than one or two books more, I will probably be safe in assuming the following are my favorites of the year.

NB: These are the titles of my favorites that I read this year, not necessarily published in 2012.  I am always behind on the newest.

Favorite Classic: (tie!) I, Claudius by Robert Graves, Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Favorite Modern Fiction: Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

Favorite Literary Fiction: The Cat’s Table by Michale Ondaatje

Favorite Non-Fiction: The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

Claudius the God

I read Claudius the God because I enjoyed I Claudius so much (first post).  While it is not quite as good as the first it is still very entertaining.  It begins where its predecessor left off- Claudius, as one of the only surviving members of the imperial family, suddenly finds himself rather reluctantly thrust into the role of Emperor after the death of Caligula.  The novel recounts Claudius’ entire reign as Emperor and his inevitable murder.

claudius

The book still includes the court intrigues and plots that made the first installment so delicious.  However, sometimes the focus will shift to governmental procedures or talk of politics, as Claudius attempts to implement plans for improving Rome and the government.  It would be more interesting for the historians of Roman history, but I found it interesting as well.

Even though I knew for a fact what was going to happen at the end- Claudius is murdered by his scheming wife Agrippina in order for her son Nero to become Emperor- I found that I didn’t look forward to poor Claudius’ death.  Robert Graves has created such a sympathetic character that the reader can feel the burden of ruling an empire right along with Claudius.  Somehow you just don’t want to read his death.

Overall, if you read I Claudius and enjoyed it you should also read Claudius the God.

I, Claudius: A History of Intrigue!

I, Claudius is the fictionalized ‘autobiography’ of Claudius, the neglected, ridiculed member of the Imperial house of Rome.  He begins with recounting events even before his own birth; the collapse of the Republic and the ascension of Augustus as Emperor (c. 40 B.C.).  He ends with an event thought impossible by all but the most far-seeing soothsayers; his own ascension to Emperor,by virtue of being the only one left alive (41 C.E.).

The books is filled with characters (in the fantastic, delicious, unbelievable sense of the word).  Poisonings, assassinations, coups, intrigues, triumphs, and a lot of general funny-business goes on throughout.

The author, Robert Graves, uses Claudius as his own mouthpiece; through his Graves is able to tell an unofficial history of the first Roman Emperors.  He also touches on the shift in Roman politics- from Republic to Monarchy- and the true nature of power.  Graves creates a sympathetic narrator in Claudius, long shunned by his family as an “idiot”, an opinion that saved his from the murder and intrigue that claimed the lives of most of his family.

Some people may shy away from this book, thinking it too historical, old, etc.  I encourage everyone to try.  I loved this book.  It is addictive reading.