Thursday, September 8, 2016

"I, Claudia" by Charity Bishop

This is one of the best books I've read all year.  And I don't say that merely to curry favor with Charity Bishop, who is my Femnista editor.  

Claudia is a Roman girl who suffers from terrifying, seemingly prescient nightmares.  She marries a Roman officer, Lucius Pilate, thinking the nightmares will cease once they've consummated their marriage.  They move to Judea when Pilate is appointed the governor of that region, and if you know your Bible history at all, you know whose trail he eventually must judge.  But Charity Bishop doesn't stop with Christ's death and resurrection -- she continues their story beyond that, to its own conclusion.

The characters here are well-rounded and compelling -- I even got attached to some of the secondary characters, like Claudia's servants.  The pacing and plotting were good as well.  But Bishop's best work was with her details of the Ancient Roman world.  She clearly did a massive amount of research, and I could have read another 200 pages set in this place, with these characters.

If you read my other blog, then you know I was very, very impressed by the film Risen (2016).  Coincidentally, my husband chose that for our Friday night movie right while I was reading this, and I enjoyed contrasting the two presentations of Christ's death and resurrection from a Roman point of view.  The two Pilates in Risen and I, Claudia are very different, but both are believable expansions of the person we read about in the Bible.

Particularly Good Bits:

"Life is like driving a chariot, Claudia.  You can do it alone and feel every flinch and tug of the lines.  You can fight the horses or you can learn from them.  It's easier if you have help" (p. 25).

"Religion forbids a lot of things but it never stops anyone" (p. 26).

"Who but the son of God could take away hatred and replace it with love in those who follow him?" (p. 166).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for a lot of suggestive material, scary scenes, pagan magic, demon possession, and violence.


  1. After a particularly frustrating day of writing that put me in a bad mood, you've single handedly brightened my evening. I'm glad you liked it.

    The problem with writing historical fiction is that you tend to take "ownership" of the historical figures in the process. (Or maybe that's just MY problem.) This means that EVERY Pilate in EVERY movie that comes along receives my intense scrutiny. (And if they leave Claudia out, I complain.) I actually liked the one in "Risen" -- he was an interesting take, in that he seemed bored by his job and just wanted out of the sinkhole of Judea. That amused me, very much.

    I also had to laugh at your "If This Was a Movie..." bit. Yeah... there's... that. But hey, it's Ancient Rome, right? ;)

    1. Charity, I'm glad the timing of this post was so helpful for you :-)

      Writing fanfic can do that too. I am sooooo possessive of a minor character named Moseby Lovelace who's in one episode of Combat! because I've written four stories involving him, and now any time someone says something less than kind about him, I get all defensive of him. Maybe that's our problem specifically as ISFJs, that we feel called to "guard" these characters/historical figures?

      I loved the Pilate in "Risen." So tired of it all and just trying to deal with the mess the best he can. Cowboy liked him best of everyone in the film, I think.

      And yeah... it's Ancient Rome. Let's just leave it at that.

    2. I think anyone of any type can take "ownership" of a character and be possessive of them (several of my friends are pretty convinced I'm actually an ENFP, so that's what I'm going with for now); but the reasons for doing so may differ. (I know an INFP who defends Richard III, because she knows what it is to have spinal problems and be in pain a lot!)

      It's fun for me to contrast and compare different incarnations of Pilate. He has been a villain ("A.D." and "The Bible" miniseries), a fop (the old "Ben Hur"), a distant crowd-pleaser (the new "Beh Hur"), a man pushed to the edge of his endurance ("The Passion of the Christ"), someone bored with his life ("Risen") and a schemer ("The Last Days of Pompeii," with Basil Rathbone -- I actually liked him best, but I'm biased; I love me some Basil Rathbone ;).

      You know, I was talking about "I, Claudia" with a friend last night and midway through, started laughing really hard because I actually REMEMBERED all the underlining sensual themes. The further I am away from a book, the more the details slip through the cracks and I start recalling generalizations; but... yeah... as you say, it's Rome. ;)

    3. Charity, I will take your word for it, as I am by no means as well-versed in this sort of thing as you are. My reasoning tends to be, "I love that person!!! You can't be mean to them!!! I love them! Be nice or I will keelhaul you. Mine! They are mine, I tell you. MIIIIIIIIINE!"

      Um, yes, there's a lot of... suggestivity. Not really explicit stuff, though.

    4. My tendency is to disarm the other person by dispassionately acknowledging all the character's worst faults and shortcomings before they have a chance to do so, then claim I love them anyway. What is there left for them to say? ;)

    5. Haha! I do that somewhat too for certain characters, particularly Sawyer from Lost. "Of course, he's a con-artist and a thief and a liar and a hoarder and a cheat, and he's by no means chaste or good, and he says mean things to people too. But none of that matters to me because I love him."

  2. (Also would appreciate it if you could leave a short review on Amazon/Goodreads for me. Every review helps. :)

  3. Fascinating! I want to read this.

    1. Bethany, it's quite cool. Hope you can read it soon!

  4. I've been meaning to read one of Charity's books, I don't know why I haven't. You certainly intrigue me further! :)

    1. Yeah, Kara, that was me too -- kept meaning to, didn't get around to it forEVER. But I'm so glad I did! I will read more of hers, for sure.


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