by Phyllis T. Smith
The Top 6 Best Things about Phyllis T. Smith’s “I am Livia”
(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
1. Ancient Rome Historical Fiction
I really love historical fiction and I find Ancient Rome to be fascinating. Smith does an excellent job of painting the picture of Ancient Rome, the culture, politics, customs, and interests of her citizens, tying all these details into the story. Smith gives the readers enough background and information without the book reading as a history lesson.
2. Cleopatra and Anthony
Cleopatra and Anthony are mentioned but are not the main characters of the story. I really appreciate this because in most instances Cleopatra is a focal point in most Ancient Rome stories from this time period and of course for good reason, both Cleopatra and Anthony were prominent political rulers. However, they weren’t the only ones so I am thankful that they did not take the limelight in this novel. I also like that Smith took more of an effort to portray their relationship as a political arrangement more than a love affair, which I believe to be more realistic and closer to the actual truth.
3. I am Livia
I enjoyed that this novel was written from the point of view of Livia mostly because it was a different perspective. In all other historical fictions from this time and place that I have read, Livia is seen as a cold-hearted cunning bitch. I always imagined her as Lucretia from the Spartacus series. Regardless, “I am Livia” gave me a different perspective on Livia Drusilla and Smith makes a great point that Livia was most likely villianized simply for being a strong, independent woman ahead of her time.
Octavianus, Octavian, Augustus, or whatever you want to call him! Another person who I’ve come across in other historical fiction novels from this time and place, since he is the ruler of Rome at that time. Oh and sorry, he was not just the “ruler”, Octavian was the 1st Roman Emperor and therefore an asshole considering that he got his power through manipulation, military force, and some serious “negotiation” (the kind that if you don’t do what he wants he kills you, and your family, possibly anyone who even knew you). Great guy. Regardless, it was nice to see more of his character than I had experienced in the past and to see him from the point of view of someone who loved him, despite him being a bit terrifying and unstable.
5. Livia Drusilla
Livia is a bad-ass. Not only was she a political adviser to Augustus, which was unheard of for a woman to do, she was one of only two women who legally had control of her own money and assets during this time (the other woman being her sister-in-law Octavia Minor). As always, I really tend to lean towards novels with a strong female main character and “I am Livia” totally delivers. It is just extra cool that Livia was a real person and Smith does an amazing job of bringing her character to life. I love that Livia was ambitious, driven, independent, non-apologetic, and overall assertive.
6. Octavia Minor
As sister to Octavian and wife to Marc Anthony, Octavia Minor is another character that I’ve come across in other historical fiction novels from this time period. From other novels, I never had a good opinion of Octavia. Never saw her as a strong woman. Rather as a weak woman who was a pushover, trying to please everyone. After reading “I am Livia” I now view Octavia as another woman who attempted to influence politics when women had no say. I appreciate the fact that she was political mediator between her brother and husband, always looking for a way to avoid war, not an easy thing to do when you have two males with huge egos. And it definitely takes a strong, loving woman to care for children that are not only not her own but specifically from her husband’s other lovers.
What were your favorite things about "I am Livia"?