Written by Robert Graves
Review by Jarad Johnson
Usually, I love reading about the political maneuvering made in the ancient Greek and Roman senate's. It fascinates me, as do all things involving politics. However, I found this book to be the exact opposite. It was laborious, difficult to focus on. I would find myself drifting off every few pages, unable to recreate the rich world of the Roman Senate, which this book drained of life. I’m sure the life of the Emperor Claudius would be fascinating, but the verbosity of this book reduced it to boring paragraphs, textbook style writing that frankly is a disservice to the ancient Emperor. What frustrates me most is that this book could have been enthralling, and had it been written differently I could see myself flying through this book. As it stands, the only reason I trudged through it was so I could review it.
The way that the books was written is actually unique, or at least I’ve never read anything like it. Graves wrote as Claudius and from his point of view. It is conversational, like you’re sitting across from Claudius and chatting. The book flits from topic to topic, never seeming to find a coherent way through the Emperor’s life, at once both in the future and the past. Honestly, I think Claudius was probably a much better writer than that. Many of the Roman Emperors were tyrannical, awful people (Nero comes to mind) and many of the motivations of the Empire as a whole are questionable at best, but I really think they would have written better than this. Then again, the Romans sacked the Great Library of Alexandria (I don’t know about you, but I’m still upset), so who can say really?
The writing is unnecessarily verbose, and “bookish.” There is an assumption among many people that in order to sound academic, you have to add lots of fluff and every obscure word from the thesaurus. Yes, many academic writings are like that, but those are usually written towards a targeted audience, not the general public. You’re not smarter because your writing confuses people, you’re just pretentious.
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is an English major. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!