The politics of empire-building and the hypocrisies, back-stabbings, and corruptions of Rome's first family come to light. First published in 1934, the book retains a marvelously modern and often comic tone, and is written in the form of Claudius' autobiography. This is gripping stuff, read by one of our finest actors, who also starred as Claudius in the classic television series.
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I have listened to the BBC Radio dramatisation (both books in one) which is excellent but just too short as an audiobook, and I wanted to fill in the gaps, which this recording and its predecessor has done to some extent. I first read the print books in the mid 60s - can't believe it's that long - and they certainly made Roman history more exciting and even helped add a few marks to O Grade Latin. Latin was compulsory for university back then! I don't do much re-reading of print except for study these days, but find audiobooks allow me to revisit old favourites while doing something else. And for that I want the WHOLE THING! Also some edits don't consider that next in series might be mysterious without the rejected bits in previous book.
Derek Jacobi became eternally associated with the Julio-Claudians after the BBC TV series, so he's the expected voice of Claudius, though it was fine for him to be Augustus on the Radio 4 version.
I read books with my ears
Thrilling, fascinating, absorbing.
What comparison can one make? Except to say that despite having been written 70-80 years before, I Caudius (and Claudius the God) reads as easily as any novel by the excellent Mr Robert Harris, or John Grisham or Val McDermid.
I frankly enjoyed the whole book - it's like a symphony or a concerto, one has to listen to it all, and both books at that.
A short paragraph about Calpurnia was touching - in Claudius the God.
Based on the histories of Suetonius and Tacitus, Robert Graves has given the world two great novels covering the era of first Emperors of Rome.
Although the books are very good reads off the written page, in Audio, Derek Jacobi further breaths a rich vitality to the tale, his voice conveying young and old, women and men with equal east and no artifice.
The only two reproaches, this was an abridged version (which I knew, but wanted the Jacobi narration) and I would have preferred the whole text. Secondly, the Vivaldi interludes were not appropriate in my opinion. A trumpet fanfare as in the excellent and seminal BBC TV dramatisation would have been super.
Grave's story of Claudius' life is extraordinary in many ways but for those who grew up with the BBC version, Jacobi's voice is inextricably linked. I can't imagine it being done in any other way.
Claudius' interview with his poisonous grandmother Livia has the power to chill but I always enjoyed the story of his childhood encounter with the eagle and wolf cubs more.
His version of Claudius the God is an absolute must if you enjoyed this.
If I could take this all in one go, I certainly would. I'd say you need to listen to it in largeish chunks to appreciate it at it's best.
It is abridged but so well done that I didn't miss any of the in included detail.
At first I found it quite difficult to listen to an account that is so matter of fact about violence and the abuse of power, but I guess it is trying to offer context through the narrative. After a while I found it to be quite refreshing in terms of not having to feel discomfort in listing to others pain, and that provided a point of critical reflection. There are many characters and names to remember, often similar, and it can be difficult to keep up, and as it is an audio book it can sometimes be onerous trying to move backwards and forwards if you want to recap on something you heard earlier.
I came to this recording with high expectations. Derek Jacobi - I Claudius - sounds good! Jacobi narrates well, conveying Claudius' stutter exceptionally well at the appropriate moment. The main problem I had was keeping track of all the characters! I found that - as a story to listen to whilst driving - my mind wandered too easily, and when I came back to it, I couldn't work out who was related to whom and what connection they had to the overall story. This got better the longer I listened, and there are some useful recaps during the unfolding of the tale: but nevertheless, I was left feeling rather disappointed. Having just listened to Robert Harris' 'Lustrum' - also a tale set in Rome amidst cruetly and duplicity - I felt this suffered by comparison. But not a total write off! Perhaps worth a relisten at some future date.
Jacobi does a great job with the narration - brings Claudius to life. The abridged version moves through the plot efficiently and keeps the story in tact
"Derek Jacobi IS Claudius"
If you watched the series, Derek Jacobi plays Claudius...and he was excellent. On the audio, he brings all his vim and vigor and talent to the reading, making the story come alive.
I've read the unabridged version, which is very long, the abridged version makes the story more dreamatic without sacrificing too many details.
"Well well well."
Well written, well read and well done indeed. Derek Jacobi is incomparable as a narrator.
"A wonderful retelling"
It was great hearing Derek Jacobi reprise his Claudius, almost as if you were having dinner with the old stammerer himself. It reminds one of the BBC series but stands on its own. I only wish it were not abridged! Onward to "Claudius the God," which completes the saga. You can get the unabridged version, but it won't be with the incomparable Sir Jacobi.
"Simply a Master"
This is my favorite audiobook. The absolute top. (Maybe for the moment?)
The plot was fantastic, especially because though it's spanning many years, everything is presented so realistically, without any alienating terminology or cheap narrative effects.
All scenes have their own taste.
Extreme in the sense that I've been captured by it every single time. Either you "know" the story or not, it remains fresh however often I listen to it.
A perfect example of a perfect story, read by a master actor.
I read the book when I was a teenager and loved every word. When I bought the Audible version I was a little anxious that Derek Jacobi wouldn't "match" the voices I'd heard in my head all those years ago. My fears were ungrounded: Jacobi is brilliant and I'm enjoying every minute. The shenanigans of ancient Rome make today's politicians seem tame, and Robert Graves was a writer to relish. Highly recommended.
"Classic story of Imperial Rome!"
The book covers the lurid, fascinating story of Claudius, accidental emporer of Rome in the Imperial age. Lively story, with a decent base in history (although he does demonize Livia). The narration by Derek Jacobi really brings it to life, as he played Claudius in the television series (BBC I think).
"At last I will find readers for my histories"
Derek Jacobi enlivens the prose and brings depth to the proceedings. I'd rank this pretty high
With its self-conscious chronicler, perhaps the last book I heard at Audible, the equally erudite combination of mysterious murders and historical intrigue, The Name of the Rose.
The climactic one, as the predecessor to Claudius gets his comeuppance.
Watching the defectives
Robert Graves' novel is heavily abridged here, broken by classical music interludes, but the plot is seamlessly edited. I wish there was more dialogue and less reporting. Rarely do you hear characters speak, and it's almost a shock to hear both fey Caligula and stammering Claudius engage in an extended conversation.
"This book was a delight!"
Written in light and cheerful way and narrated by the great Derek Jacobi! Can't wait to start 'Claudius the God' 😊
I've listened to this book and it's sequel at least a half a dozen times. Derek Jacobi brings to life a somewhat dry text and makes it so interesting I never seem to tire of it.
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