100 Greatest Novels: I, Claudius & To the Lighthouse

Sorry for the delay, I had to take a short little trip to London. Anyways, back to the 100 greatest novels

200px-I_Cladius_1st_edition_book_coverI, Claudius by Robert Graves

Or the full title: I, Claudius: From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54, in case you were wondering. This novel falls into a type of fiction that when done well is such an incredible book to read: fictional autobiographies. The first foray into this type of novel for me was The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, which is a very funny book. What these books do is give us a chance to see history through an important person’s point of view. The best ones are from reviled or ridiculed characters from history; the murderous and gluttonous Henry VIII or the stammering and stupid Emperor Tiberius Claudius. Graves does a great job of making Claudius not only an intelligent historian explaining the last few leaders of Rome, but also a humorous character that you greatly sympathize with. His portrayal of Claudius was also part of a larger movement by historians to correct our perception of Claudius. He wasn’t stupid but most likely had cerebral palsy or Tourette syndrome. When Graves was writing, in the 1930s, the belief was shifting to polio. Interesting stuff.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

175px-ToTheLighthouseWhat an odd book. The first half dragged through an afternoon of a family and some friends at a vacation home. The sentences went on and on. The dinner lasted 5 or so chapters. Then, the book lunged through a few years while following an old maid around the house. The death of some characters were only given a short sentence in parenthesis. Next, the book is back at the vacation home, still trying to get to the lighthouse. And then it was over.

I think this book will be one of those that I didn’t particularly enjoy while I was reading but looking back a few weeks later, I’ll have positive feelings towards it. I don’t know if you have ever felt like this towards a book. Cormac McCarthy novels are always like this for me. Anyways, it wasn’t a long read and there were some very interesting passages. I really enjoyed reading about one characters attempt at and struggle with painting a particular scene.

Next up, An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. Onwards we go.

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