I am reading books at a rapid pace right now. I've more or less been stuck on a couch with a pair of recovering five year olds for the last four days in addition to being hit with a terrible bout of sudden insomnia. At least I have plenty of books.
To start, I have a minimal knowledge of Ancient Rome. I know what I've been taught in school. I know what my boyfriend Gordianus has taught me with his adventures. However, Gordianus (to this point) only brings me through Julius Caesar. Livia's tale begins with the death of Julius Caesar. However, my minimal knowledge of Caesar Augustus and his quarrels with one Mark Antony was enough to get me through this book without too much help from Wikipedia.
I think my minimal knowledge actually worked in this case. I know about Livia and Nero and Claudius. I know who they are but not necessarily where they came from. While this book doesn't go into much detail about Nero or Claudius, it gives the reader an excellent glimpse into the life of the family's real power, matriarch Livia Drusilla. This Livia is not the scheming, poisoning, and manipulative woman we have been told about before. This Livia is slightly manipulative but not in the power mad way you think. At no point does the author lead you to think Livia's actions are meant to benefit anyone but Rome. This author does an excellent job making Livia human. She is a wife who cares for her husband. She is a mother who wants what is best for her children. She is a citizen who cares for her country. She is a woman who is constantly working to keep these three things in harmony even if it requires a personal sacrifice.
I would have liked to have seen more of Livia later in life. I would have like to seen Livia during Nero. I would have liked to have seen Livia during Claudius even though the glimpses of Claudius we are given suggest that Livia wasn't exactly a fan.