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Put aside all thought of stuffy classics. Think well-spun tale, full of twists and turns, subterfuges and bloody tyranny. Bear in mind that the BBC at the peak of its tour de force of TV drama production in the '70s and '80s made these two books into a masterpiece surpassed only (perhaps) by Brideshead Revisited. You can't do that with dull material.
As the title siggests, the books are written in the first person, as the autobiography of the partly disabled, sickly survivor of the Claudian wing of the Roman aristocracy who became emperor by flying below the radar and outliving all the other candidates. The choice of reader is critical, as we are listening to an elderly man tell his long and convoluted life story. Nelson Runger's voice rumbles along with just the right timbre and clarity for the character of the wily and learned Claudius. More importantly he has such a fine actor's grasp of text and meaning that we never, for one moment, feel that we are being read to. We are simply being told the bloody, scheming, erotic and shocking tale of Rome's ruling dynasty at the peak of its imperial power, spun out as an captivating yarn.
While never claiming officially to be an historian Graves was a close descendant of German historian Leopold von Ranke and prized historical accuracy. So much, if not all of the two books is historically accurate, a perspective which serves as the binding sauce to Graves' words and Runger's delivery.
One of my very best Audible purchases, which I will listen to again and again.
101 of 101 people found this review helpful
This book is a superb read if you enjoy historical fiction. It's also excellent if you enjoy biography/autobiography so long as you don't take the subject matter as entirely accurate. It's written as "autobiography" of Claudius, fourth emperor of the Roman Empire. Though the book (and it's sequel, Claudius the God) finds it's foundation in the Roman biographies of Suetonius and Tacitus, much effort has been made by Graves to cast Claudius in as favorable a light as possible. To this end, Claudius is a sympathetic and intelligent character whose base neglect by the earlier Caesars is only to the detriment of the empire.
This book carries the life of Claudius from the political intrigues before his birth up until his comical accession as emperor. Graves' second book, Claudius the God, carries the story practically up to Claudius' death.
The reader is excellent and his voice along with the text allows you to lapse into thinking that you are listening to Claudius himself.
40 of 40 people found this review helpful
Oh, dear! I bought the story I wanted, but with the wrong narrator...... Probably just me, but the American/mid-Atlantic(?) accent really grates on my ears - somehow I bought the wrong version, when I wanted the one paired with 'Claudius the God'; I must say I wish Derek Jacobi had done both books unabridged, but that's probably only because I can still picture and hear him in the role from the TV adaptation which has stuck fast in my mind.
However, the story is intriguing and well worth listening to, whoever narrates it, I suppose....
23 of 24 people found this review helpful
Like the previous reviewer, I would have preferred a British narrator to read this British book (obviously, Derek Jacobi would be the ideal, at least for anyone who has seen the TV series). However, after about 10 minutes I found that the accent stopped grating and I started to enjoy this reading (after all, I suppose Claudius should probably have an Italian accent, if anything!) However, Robert Graves was British and occasionally he uses words that are not in use on the other side of the Atlantic, then the mispronunciation jars badly and I go back to disliking the narration for a while. Other than that fairly minor niggle, the reading is good and the book is superb.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful