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I Am Livia by [Smith, Phyllis T.]
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I Am Livia Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 3,285 customer reviews

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Length: 391 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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From the Editor

Back in the mid-’70s, I was a HUGE fan of the PBS adaption of Robert Graves’ modern classic, I, Claudius. A delicious melding of highbrow history and political intrigue, sprinkled with steamy sex (well, for 1976, anyway)—man, I just ate it up. It also initiated a lifelong love of fiction with the milieu of ancient Rome. Which is why, almost forty years later, when a manuscript entitled I Am Livia (Livia is the grande dame of I, Claudius—think Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter), crossed my desk, I knew I’d take a look. What I didn’t know was how much I’d love it, and how nothing else except reading was going to get done that day.

It turns out author Phyllis Smith felt the same way I did about the PBS series and Graves’ books. In fact, they led her to take a course on ancient Roman history—and a fascination with the period was born. One thing always bothered Phyllis, though: she thought the men who wrote the history books gave Livia a raw deal, so she wanted to offer her some historical justice. Was she the sociopathic monster of popular lore, or was there another side to the story?

The result of Phyllis’s inquiry is a highly polished and compelling tale of ancient Rome narrated by Livia Drusilla herself, wife of Caesar Octavianus, who defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium. OK, maybe she did make her first husband walk her down the aisle when she left him for Caesar, and a few children she knew might have met untimely deaths, but this Livia treats herself more kindly than history has. In fact, one of the things Phyllis is most proud of (and surprised by) is how writing the book in Livia’s voice gave her a certain empathy for her protagonist that many male historians have glossed over. The story becomes a fascinating study of a woman who learns to survive—not an easy task in her era, when all the “real” power was held by men.

I Am Livia is many things: a sweeping, sometimes shocking immersion in an intriguing period of history; a touching love story between two people who never really stood a chance; and, most important, the debut of a major new writing talent.

- Terry Goodman, Acquiring Editor

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. This Livia, however, treats herself more kindly than history has done. She blithely waves away any allegation about committing murder for political purposes. A champion of women's rights, mostly her own, Livia reveals her manipulative and politically cunning nature—something she may have acquired at her father's knee, as he was among those who plotted the assassination of Julius Caesar. The author offers a richness of historical detail, taking us from Livia's early marriage to Tiberius Nero to her second marriage to Julius Caesar's adopted son. Able to arrange events in her favor, Livia persuades her first husband to give her away to Caesar even as she prepares to deliver his second child. Seamlessly written, this novel will appeal mightily to fans of historical fiction.


"I Am Livia is a wonderful journey to ancient Rome that provides amazing, thoughtful insight into one of its most influential and unconventional citizens...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

"[Smith] does a wonderful job of showing political upheaval through the eyes of a young woman of important status living through it with full comprehension of what is going on...Not only does Livia become a sympathetic and inspiring protagonist, but, seen through Livia’s eyes, Caesar Augustus becomes a flesh and blood man, brilliant, ambitious, arrogant, and yet vulnerable. 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

“Readers who seek out fiction about intelligent, powerful women of the past will find a great deal to enjoy here—I definitely did!” —Sarah, L. Johnson, author of Historical Fiction: A Guide

Product details

  • File Size: 4872 KB
  • Print Length: 391 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (May 1, 2014)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,460 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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